Cook On Concord
Judge John G. Roberts of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, nominated July 19 by President George W. Bush to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, was little known to Americans prior to the announcement. But he immediately became the subject of intense scrutiny among media and politicians trying to figure out who he is and what his addition to the world’s most important court may mean for the future. He also became the object of a political process largely out of his control. Since this nomination is important for the American system of government and the direction of jurisprudence, and because the rhetoric around any confirmation process is pitched and often heated, a few observations about what to expect in the process might be helpful. First, there are usually many comments about whether the nominee is “qualified” to be on the Supreme Court. Roberts went through Harvard College in three years and headed his class at the Harvard Law School, editing the country’s most prestigious law review. After law school, he clerked for the top appeals court judge in the federal system at the time, and then for Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. He has served as assistant White House counsel and deputy solicitor general, and in private practice where he headed the appellate practice group at Hogan and Hartson, one of the most prominent American law firms. Frankly, if this isn’t qualified, no lawyer in America is qualified. While there is no unified theme of opposition to his confirmation, there will be a lot of give and take, much of it fueled by a reported $50 million raised to support or oppose a nominee. Among the early criticisms, or potential “concerns,” raised by potential opponents are such things as Roberts’ participation in the Florida recount matter by advising Gov. Jeb Bush, although no one knows what advice he offered.