Sunday, August 07, 2005

Supreme Court Nominee John G. Roberts

Supreme Court Nominee John G. Roberts:
How Many Of His Government Records Can Be Hidden From the Senate?
Friday, Jul. 29, 2005

Remarkably little is known about Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts, other than the bare bones of his resume. Although he was recently confirmed for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, that confirmation hearing did little delving. So far, he has written only about forty opinions in his two years on the appellate court, on largely mundane legal matters. Thus, his judicial philosophy remains essentially unknown.

For this reason, several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have said they will seek copies of documents that Roberts prepared as a government attorney in the Reagan and Bush I administrations, to see if these documents provide evidence of Roberts's thinking. Of particular interest are Roberts's years in the Office of the Solicitor General, for nowhere in the Executive Branch is there more thinking done about the High Court.

The Bush White House, and those speaking on behalf of the Administration, initially said that they would refuse to turn over documents, claiming attorney-client privilege. Apparently reminded that as Independent Counsel, Ken Starr pretty much made a nullity of that privilege for government attorneys, the White House later said that some documents would be made available, but not all.

In support of its position, it cited as precedent the rules that had governed the hearings of past government attorneys who have been selected for the high bench (Rehnquist, Bork, and Scalia). The problem is, it turns out that existing precedent -- in particular, precedent from the Bork hearings, the more recent of the three, cuts the wrong way for the White House....