I have very mixed feeling about SCOTUS nominee John Roberts. Part of it isn’t really about him at all; it’s about the fact that I’m not sure whether we could ever expect to get anyone better (from our perspective) out of a Bush nomination. That doesn’t mean I think we should resign ourselves to his appointment, and not fight tooth and nail against him if he deserves it…but taking into consideration the nature of any nominee Bush gives us, whether he does deserves it is, at least for me, kind of a tough call.

So that’s why I’ve been pretty quiet on Roberts. I’ve just been reading what I can about him, and trying to get my head around who he is. Today, there’s an interesting article about him in The Seattle Times (pulled from the LA Times) that doesn’t really help make up my mind about him one way or another, but might at least justify my decision to withhold final judgment for a bit:

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts worked behind the scenes for a coalition of gay-rights activists, and his legal expertise helped them persuade the Supreme Court to issue a landmark 1996 ruling protecting people against discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

Then a lawyer specializing in appellate work, the conservative Roberts helped represent the gay activists as part of his law firm's pro bono work. While he did not write the legal briefs or argue the case before the Supreme Court, he was instrumental in reviewing the filings and preparing oral arguments, according to several lawyers involved in the case.

The coalition won its case, 6-3, in what gay activists described at the time as the movement's most important legal victory. The three dissenting justices were those to whom Roberts is frequently likened for their conservative ideology: Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Roberts' work on behalf of gay activists, whose cause is anathema to many conservatives, appears to illustrate his allegiance to the credo of the legal profession: to zealously represent the interests of the client, whoever it might be.

There is no other record of Roberts being involved in gay-rights cases that would suggest his position on such issues. He has stressed, however, that a client's views are not necessarily shared by the lawyer who argues on his or her behalf.

The lawyer who asked for his help on the case, Walter Smith Jr., then head of the pro bono department at Hogan & Hartson, said Roberts didn't hesitate. "He said, 'Let's do it.' And it's illustrative of his open-mindedness, his fair-mindedness. He did a brilliant job," Smith said.


[Jean Dubofsky, lead attorney on the case] said Roberts helped her form the argument that the initiative was illegal because it violated the "equal-protections" clause of the Constitution.
I don’t post this to suggest that Roberts is gay-friendly; I don’t think that he is. But perhaps he’s more fair than I originally suspected.

So far, the Dems seem to be doing a good job on really digging into this guy, and I think we can trust them to do what’s best here—which, as we know, hasn’t always been the case when it comes to Bush’s nominees for various positions throughout the judiciary and his administration. Some people have been given a pass (and Dem votes of support) who in no way deserved them. (Yeah, I’m talking to you Alberto Gonzales…and you, too, Condi Rice.)

The truth is, I’m never going to be happy with anyone Bush nominates, but I’m not yet convinced this guy is another Scalia, either. I’m going to keep my eyes on this and see what unfolds. If it turns out this guy isn’t the absolute worst we could have expected, that still might not make us jump for joy, but it would certainly be a welcome surprise.

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