Bush’s Pick John Roberts: Disguised Right-Wing Zealot

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For it is important to understand that the Supreme Court is, in essence, a perpetual Constitutional Convention…
So, it is not foolish to fear that relatively recent advances in the rights of Blacks, women, gays, unions, the environment, minimum-wage workers, and other minorities and underclasses might be in jeopardy. All it takes is a cursory glance at John Roberts' resume' to see that this is a person who has devoted the bulk of his professional career to advancing an arch-conservative ideological agenda. In open court, he has taken positions hostile to African-Americans…

For some reason, when President Bush announced his nomination of John Glover Roberts, Jr. for the U.S. Supreme Court, most political pundits shared a collective sigh of relief that a right-wing extremist had not been picked. Granted, the 50 year-old Harvard Law School grad is far from a lunatic fringe candidate, as he arrives with a solid Republican pedigree which shows that he served in both the Reagan and Bush I administrations. Plus, he’s enjoyed stints as a law clerk to Justice Rehnquist and as Deputy Solicitor General under Kenneth Starr, yep, the selfsame, smug Special Prosecutor who went after uncovering President Clinton’s personal peccadilloes with utter abandon. Roberts was also a partner at Hogan & Hartson, Washington, D.C.'s largest, and perhaps most influential law firm. He was paid a cool million dollars during his final year there, which was right before he took about a $900,000 pay cut when George Bush II tapped him for a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court.

While one might be easily impressed by the professional accomplishments and by the carefully-staged photo-op introducing this obviously well-connected Conservative, it is at best, silly, and at worst, suicidal, to decide whether one would want him to ascending to the bench of the nation's highest court without closely examining where he has stood in the past on the types of cases he is likely to be asked to rule on. For it is important to understand that the Supreme Court is, in essence, a perpetual Constitutional Convention in which whoever holds the reigns of judicial power, invokes the names of the Framers while proceeding to interpret the law of the land in any manner they damn well please. This explains the Court's long legacy of inconsistent rulings. Think about it. The same document was relied upon for the Dred Scott decision that Blacks had "NO rights which ANY white man was bound to respect," and for all the Warren Court rulings finally extending civil rights to African-Americans. In 1896, the Supreme Court, in the Plessy v. Ferguson case referred to the Constitution in ruling that "separate but equal accommodations" for Blacks and whites were perfectly fine, yet it flip-flopped in 1954 when it struck down its own separate but equal doctrine in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. Thus, we see that the Court has a long history of swinging to the left or to the right, depending on the leanings of the majority of its current members. So, it is not foolish to fear that relatively recent advances in the rights of Blacks, women, gays, unions, the environment, minimum-wage rights of Blacks, and other minorities and underclasses might be in jeopardy.

All it takes is a cursory glance at John Roberts' resume' to see that this is a person who has devoted the bulk of his professional career to advancing an arch-conservative ideological agenda. In open court, he has taken positions hostile to African-Americans, for instance, arguing, albeit unsuccessfully, against the desegregation of a school district in Georgia proven to be allocating far more resources to its state-of-the-art white schools than to its impoverished Black ones. He has been just as hostile towards women's reproductive rights, filing a brief in Rust v. Sullivan which stated, "We continue to believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled." So, when Bush gleefully hails his nominee as a moderate and a compromise candidate, please do me a favor, consider the source before sharing in the euphoria.

Black Star columnist and attorney Lloyd Williams is a member of the NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars. For more reports please click on “subscribe� on our home page or call (212) 481-7745 to order the newsstand edition of The Black Star, the world’s favorite Pan-African news weekly.

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