Friday, May 29, 2009

Justice Roberts Profile by Jeffrey Toobin

Toobin's article on Chief Justice John Roberts in the New Yorker is worth a read, especially in light of current discussions about a person's background and  judicial philosophy. Toobin writes that  Roberts said  “Judges are like umpires,” during his confirmation hearing, continuing,

 “Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.” His jurisprudence as Chief Justice, Roberts said, would be characterized by “modesty and humility.” After four years on the Court, however, Roberts’s record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

Toobin writes about the ways in which Robert's career marked him:

In private practice and in the first Bush Administration, a substantial portion of his work consisted of representing the interests of corporate defendants who were sued by individuals. For example, shortly before Roberts became a judge, he successfully argued in the Supreme Court that a woman who suffered from carpal-tunnel syndrome could not win a recovery from her employer, Toyota, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Likewise, Roberts won a Supreme Court ruling that the family of a woman who died in a fire could not use the federal wrongful-death statute to sue the city of Tarrant, Alabama. In a rare loss in his thirty-nine arguments before the Court, Roberts failed to persuade the Justices to uphold a sixty-four-million-dollar fine against the United Mine Workers, which was imposed by a Virginia court after a strike. One case that Roberts argued during his tenure in the Solicitor General’s office in George H. W. Bush’s Administration, Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, seems to have had special resonance for him.

According to Toobin, who does a nice job of explaining standing, Roberts supports "gatekeeping" doctrines.  There is much else here, including discussions of recent oral arguments in the voting rights case and recent decisions such as Seattle Independent Schools and Boumediene v. Bush (dissenting). 

RR


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