John G. Roberts is the Nominee
Bork Roberts

Roberts: Partisan Hack or True Believer?

Nathan Newman makes some interesting points about Bush's Supreme Court nominee:

Don't Judge His Words, He Was a Partisan Hack

So why is he considered a blank slate?

Because we aren't supposed to judge what he said in those years, since he was working for other people.  Or so argues his defenders such as Juan at the Volokh Conspiracy, who says you can't ascribe any personal views to words Roberts wrote:
Attorneys have an ethical obligation to zealously advocate the position of their clients. An attorney in Roberts position had an express duty to advance his client’s – the federal government's – policy position as effectively as possible...The idea that the specific language used in a legal brief advancing his client’s position establishes Roberts' personal views is quite a stretch.

Of course, deciding to spend years working for this particular client, the Reagan administration, says a lot about Roberts' personal views, but Juan is right in one sense: Roberts has spent his career as a mind-for-hire on behalf of the rightwing Republican agenda.   Whatever he said was done to advance his career with no intellectual integrity, since according to his defenders, he didn't believe a word he said.
So if his career is one of years of political hack partisanship, sprinkled with a few years acting as a well-paid hack on behalf of corporate interests, why should we believe Roberts has the temperment to be an independent Justice?

He's been a hired gun for his whole adult career, save the last two years on the DC Circuit-- which now appears just to have been a chance to grease the wheels for his elevation to the Supreme Court as part of the Bush political team.

Also, I had some recollection of having seen Roberts' name while researching the Endangered Species Act opponents, the Pacific Legal Foundation. Sure enough. Here he is in a 1999 case (LLOYD A. GOOD, JR. v. UNITED STATES in the U.S. Fed Circuit Court of Appeals), concerning a proposed residential development in Lower Sugarloaf Key, Florida. If you've ever been to the Florida Keys, you know the area has a n extremely fragile ecosystem. As I understand it from a friend who lives there, the local governments  were so wholly in the thrall of local real estate developers that the Feds had to step in and severely restrict development. This case plays out against that background. The case seems to be about whether a landowner can dredge really a lot of salt marsh over the objection of the Federal Government.

Attorneys in the case arguing the side of the property owner are were: Richard R. Nageotte , Nageotte, Nageotte & Nageotte, of Stafford, Virginia, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Of counsel was John G. Roberts, Jr. , Hogan & Hartson, of Washington, DC,  and  James S. Burling , Pacific Legal Foundation, of Sacramento, California, for amicus curiae Pacific Legal Foundation. With him on the brief was Peter G. Gioia , Pacific Legal Foundation, of Stuart, Florida. (On the other side were the US Government, National Wildlife Federation, and the Florida Audubon Society.)

So there's our man, shoulder to shoulder with the most rabid opponents of the Endangered Species Act, presumably arguing that digging up the salt marshes is the right and only thing to do and that privileging the "rights" of species over property rights is unconstitutional. (That's the PLF's usual rap.)

I should add that this is not the kind of job you send a partisan hack for. This is a job for a true believer.

ANOTHER VIEW: The American Voter Project on Roberts:

The end of progress on environmental issues such as clean water and air, safe cars and safe food. All of these things are at risk if the laws that made them possible are struck down for economic reasons rather than moral common sense reasons. Judge John G. Roberts is the wrong person at this time for the court. He has already stated that the Roe decision was “wrong” and he has written opinions that question the validity of the Endangered Species Act. Judge Roberts sided with the District of Columbia on a law that was so distasteful it was changed. A 12 year old girl was arrested, had cuffed and taken away in a windowless police vehicle for eating a single French fry on the Metro which is the name of D.C. transit system including the subway. When the girls mother sued over the law on equal protection grounds that an adult would have been cited and not arrested, Judge Roberts held that arresting juveniles and not adults was rationally related to “the legitimate goal of promoting parental awareness and involvement with children who commit delinquent acts”.

The law raised such a furor it was changed yet this Judge felt it was ok. There will be other cases like this and if and when they make it to the Supreme Court with Judge Roberts as a member the nation will not be better off but less of a place of progress.

Certainly, Bush could have found a worse candidate, but Democrats should not let themselves be talked into the idea that the confirmation process is a remake of Sophie's Choice. Can Roberts be stopped?