Sunday, July 24, 2005

Who Does This Guy Think He Is -- John Bolton? 

In a startling development, the Bush administration deviates from its usual policy of openness and transparency:
Citing privacy and precedent, the Bush administration indicated Sunday it does not intend to release all memos and other documents written by Supreme Court nominee John Roberts when he worked for two Republican presidents.
Memo to GHWB: Recommend blanket pardons for all involved. If they spill what they know to Walsh, your ass is pan-fried in beurre blanc.

(Sure, we're making it up. If we never get to see the real documents, what else can we do? )

UPDATE (and we're not making it up): In an apparent hommage to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the nominee claims he "has no memory of belonging to the Federalist Society," although he was in fact on the steering committee of that secret society; his name appeared in the organization's "leadership directory" as recently as 1997-98. "Membership in the sense of paying dues was not required as a condition of inclusion in a listing of the society's leadership," explained one helpful Society nabob. Our esteemed colleague Lambert of Corrente expertly parses the parsings here.

UPDATE II (via Robert A. George of Ragged Thots): The NY Sun describes a portion of the Roberts paper trail that has not yet come to light:
Judge Roberts also kept a file on at least one other contentious civil rights issue, the conflict over the government's right to strip the tax exemption of Bob Jones University because of its ban on interracial dating. That file is not among those presently available for review, according to the [Reagan] library's listing.
UPDATE III (via our indefatigable colleague Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla): The L.A. Times reports on "informal discussions" with various senators in which it emerged that Roberts's top priority as a Supreme Court justice would be to avoid landing on Pope Benedict's shitlist:
According to two people who attended the meeting, Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion. (Pope Benedict XVI is often cited as holding this strict view of the merging of a person's faith and public duties).

Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.

It was the first unscripted answer in the most carefully scripted nomination in history. It was also the wrong answer. In taking office, a justice takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. A judge's personal religious views should have no role in the interpretation of the laws. (To his credit, Roberts did not say that his faith would control in such a case).

Roberts may insist that he was merely discussing the subject theoretically in an informal setting, and that he doesn't anticipate recusing himself on a regular basis. But it's not a subject that can be ignored; if he were to recuse himself on such issues as abortion and the death penalty, it would raise the specter of an evenly split Supreme Court on some of the nation's most important cases.
We cannot resist pointing out -- with some admiration! -- that Nino "the Impaler" Scalia is also a devout Catholic, but has never allowed his personal faith to take the fun out of life:
Last year, Scalia chastised Catholic judges who balk at imposing the death penalty — another immoral act according to the church: "The choice for a judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation, rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty."
UPDATE IV (via our revered colleague Avedon Carol): Dwight Meredith at Wampum examined Robers's answers to a Senate questionnaire and concluded that the nominee has never argued a single case before a jury.

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