Roberts Rules: Bush's Pick for Supreme Court

Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT
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(1st Add: Includes more remarks from President Bush and Judge John Roberts)

( - President Bush Tuesday night nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John G. Roberts to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the pending retirement of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"One of the most consequential decisions a president makes is his appointment of a justice to the Supreme Court. When a president chooses a justice, he's placing in human hands the authority and majesty of the law," Bush said. "The decisions of the Supreme Court affect the life of every American and so a nominee to that court must be a person of superb credential and the highest integrity; a person who will faithfully apply the Constitution and keep our founding promise of 'equal justice under law.'

"I have found such a person in Judge John Roberts," Bush said, "I am honored to announce that I am nominating him to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court."

Bush praised Roberts as "one of the most distinguished and talented attorneys in America.

"John Roberts has devoted his entire professional life to the cause of justice," the president said, "and is widely admired for his intellect, his sound judgment and personal decency."

Roberts graduated summa cum laude in 1976 from Harvard College and earned his law degree, magna cum laude, from the Harvard Law School three years later. He then worked as a clerk for both Judge Henry J. Friendly of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and for then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist at the Supreme Court.

Roberts has held federal appointments as special assistant to United States Attorney General William French Smith, associate counsel to President Ronald Reagan and principal deputy solicitor general of the United States, in addition to his current post on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and his previous private law practice.

"It is both an honor and very humbling to be nominated to serve on the Supreme Court," Roberts said, noting that his private practice often placed him in front of the justices on behalf of his clients. "That experience left me with a profound appreciation for the role of the court in our constitutional democracy and a deep regard for the court as an institution."

Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy or Vermont and Charles Schumer of New York responded to the nomination immediately after the announcement.

"We have to ensure that the Supreme Court remains a protector of all Americans? rights and liberties from government intrusion and that the Supreme Court understands the role of Congress in passing legislation to protect ordinary Americans from special interest abuses," Leahy said. "No one is entitled to a free pass to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court."

Schumer began by praising Roberts? "outstanding legal credentials and an appropriate legal temperament and demeanor."

But the New York Democrat then criticized Roberts for having only two years experience as a federal judge.

"The rest of his career, he has been arguing cases as an able lawyer for others, leaving many of his personal views unknown," Schumer said. "For these reasons, it is vital that Judge Roberts answer a wide range of questions openly, honestly and fully in the coming months."

Schumer was one of only three senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against Roberts? nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was joined by Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) who opposed Roberts, in part, because he refused to answer questions that would have forced him to take a position on matters that he might have to rule on in the future as a federal judge.

President Bush admonished the Senate to thoughtfully but promptly complete the confirmation process so that Roberts could take his seat with the other justices when the Supreme Court reconvenes in October.

"I believe the Democrats and Republicans alike will see the strong qualifications of this fine judge as they did when they confirmed him by unanimous consent to the judicial seat he now holds," Bush said. "I look forward to the Senate confirming Judge John Roberts as the 109th justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."

Roberts? nomination will first go to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts before being considered by the full Judiciary Committee. If passed by both bodies, it would go before the full Senate for consideration.

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