Oppose John Roberts' Supreme Court Nomination
Background Articles on Roberts
Issue-Areas of Greatest Concern
Here are some of the areas of greatest concern from Roberts' record (for specific case examples, scroll down):
As a partisan lawyer for the Bush Sr. and Reagan administrations, Roberts threatened:
Civil rights by asking the Supreme Court to severely limit the ability of district courts to desegregate public schools 1, and working to ensure the Voting Rights Act could not be used to remedy many cases of actual discrimination against minority votes. 2
Women's rights by fighting for a law barring doctors from even discussing reproductive options in many cases, 3 and arguing that Roe. vs. Wade should be "overruled." 4
Free speech by arguing to the Supreme Court that political speech that some considered offensive did not deserve First Amendment protections. The Court rejected his claim. 5
Religious liberty by arguing to the Supreme Court that public schools could force religious speech on students. Again, the Court rejected the argument. 6
As a corporate lawyer, Roberts threatened:
Community and environmental rights by working to strike down new clean-air rules and filing a brief for the National Mining Association, arguing that federal courts could not stop mountaintop-removal mining in West Virginia, even as it devastated local communities. 7
Workers' rights by helping Toyota to successfully evade the Americans with Disabilities Act and fire workers for disabilities they suffered over time because of the requirements of their jobs. 8
Public interest regulations by helping Fox News challenge FCC rules that prevented the creation of news media monopolies. 9
In his short two years as a judge, Roberts has threatened:
Individual rights by rejecting the civil rights claims brought on behalf of a 12-year-old girl who had been handcuffed, arrested and taken away by the police for eating a single french fry in the D.C. Metro. 10
Environmental protections when the dissent he wrote on an Endangered Species Act case, had it been in the majority, would have struck the Act down as unconstitutional in many cases, and would have threatened a wide swath of workplace, public safety and civil rights protections. 11
Human Rights by voting to strike down the Geneva Conventions as applied to prisoners that the Bush administration chose to exempt from international law. 12
1. Oklahoma City Public Schools v. Dowell
2. Alliance for Justice, Nominee Profile
3. Alliance for Justice, Nominee Profile
4. "Same Appeal; Different Styles," Washington Postm July 17, 2005
5. United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990)
6. Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)
7. "The Making of the Corporate Judiciary" Mother Jones, November/December 2003
8. Toyota Motor Mfg., Kentucky v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002)
9. Alliance for Justice
10. Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148 (D.C. Cir. 2004)
11. Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton, 334 F.3d 1158 (D.C. Cir. 2003 cert. denied)
12. Court: U.S. May Resume Detainee Tribunals, Associated Press, July 16th 2005
Specific Case Examples
- Roberts supports hard-line, anti-civil rights policy that opposed affirmative action.
- After this Supreme Court decision dramatically weakened certain sections of the Voting Rights Act, Roberts was involved in the administration’s effort to prevent Congress from overturning the Supreme Court’s action.
- Oklahoma City Public Schools v. Dowell, 1990
- The amicus brief co-authored by Roberts in his capacity as Deputy Solicitor General sought to weaken the standard and limit the timeline for court-enforced desegregation decrees in the nation’s schools.
- Roberts co-authored an amicus brief on a case with substantially similar facts. It argued that a school system whose racial makeup had changed due to demographic shifts in residential patterns allegedly unrelated to prior discrimination could not be required to eliminate racial imbalances within its schools and that the court could lift a desegregation decree even if not all six factors for “unitary status” had been fulfilled.
- Roberts attacks affirmative action
- Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta,2001
- Roberts, in private practice, wrote a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Congress had failed to justify a Department of Transportation affirmative action program that benefits minority owned business.
- Rothe Development Corporation v. United States Department of Defense ,2001
- Roberts, in private practice, wrote an amicus brief for Associated General Contractors of America, who took the side of a contractor challenging the Department of Defense’s program granting bid preferences to small, minority-owned businesses. They argued that the Defense Department’s program, which promoted bids from socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, was unconstitutional because it lacked the evidentiary findings necessary to support the implementation of a program with race-based classifications, or, alternatively, that the program was not sufficiently tailored to pass constitutional muster.
Rights of Criminal Defendants
- Roberts limits rights of prisoners and defendants
- Burns v. United States, 1991
- As Solicitor General, Roberts authored the government’s Supreme Court in which Petitioner William Burns was convicted of government theft, attempted tax evasion, and false claims based upon a plea bargain with the government under which he would receive a prison sentence of 30-37 months, which was within agreed-upon guidelines. At Burns’ sentencing hearing, however, the district court judge sua sponte announced a 60-month sentence. Burns appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed, finding no language in the Federal Rules mandating advance notice of such a decision by the judge.
- Denton v. Hernandez, 1992
- Roberts wrote an amicus brief criticizing what he felt was the 9 th Circuit Court’s excessive leniency toward in forma pauperis prisoner litigants, quoting a brief by Justice Rehnquist, in which he asserted that, “[t]he potential for abuse of [the in forma pauperis statute] is especially acute in the context of suits by prison inmates. Such individuals not only have no financial disincentive to mount such claims, but may look upon bringing suit as a means to obtain a short sabbatical in the nearest federal courthouse.”
- Roberts supports illegal searches and seizures
- Roberts joined a unanimous opinion ruling that a police officer who searched the trunk of a car without saying that he was looking for evidence of a crime (the standard for constitutionality) still conducted the search legally, because there was a reasonable basis to think contraband was in the trunk, regardless of whether the officer was thinking in those terms.
- Roberts shuns the constitution and individuals’ rights
- Fletcher v. District of Columbia, 2004
- Roberts joined a unanimous opinion denying the claim of a prisoner who argued that by tightening parole rules in the middle of his sentence, the government subjected him to an unconstitutional after-the-fact punishment. The panel reversed its decision after a Supreme Court ruling directly contradicted it.
- Roberts helps executive branch increase power during war
- Acree v. Republic of Iraq, 2004
- Concurring in a decision allowing President Bush to halt suits by Americans against Iraq as the country rebuilds, Roberts called for deference to the executive and for a literal reading of the relevant statute.
- Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , 2005
- Roberts, as a member of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected a challenge to the Bush Administration's plans to try suspected Al Qaeda terrorists before military commissions.
- Roberts attacks a woman’s right to choose
- While in the first Bush Administration, Roberts co-wrote a brief stating “we continue to believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”
- Roberts attacks abortion-related counseling
- During his tenure as deputy solicitor general of the President George H.W. Bush administration, Roberts argued for a rule that banned abortion-related counseling by federally funded family planning programs.
- Roberts defends pro-life group that targets abortion clinics
- Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, 1993
- In a case involving the Operation Rescue, he coauthored the government's amicus brief supporting the group's right to target clinics, under the First Amendment, arguing that Operation Rescue was not engaged in a conspiracy to deny women equal protection.
- Roberts flip-flops on abortion
- Appellate Court Confirmation Hearing, 2003
- Roberts told Senator Durbin that Roe v Wade was “the
settled law of the land” and said “there's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent, as well as Casey.”
- Roberts argues for an increasing role of religion in our schools
- Mergens v. Westside Community School District, 1990
- Roberts co-authored a brief in which the government argued that barring a religious group from meeting on school grounds violates the Equal Access Act, while granting access does not violate the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court agreed with the government’s position.
- Roberts attacks free speech
- United States v. Eichman , United States v. Haggerty, 1990
- Roberts co-authored a brief arguing that the 1989 Flag Act did not violate the First Amendment. The brief argued for the Court to treat flag burning like “obscene words” and “defamatory statements” and allow the government to ban it for the common good, but the Supreme Court disagreed 5-4, holding the statute unconstitutional.
- Roberts argues for religion in public schools
- Roberts co-authored a brief arguing for an expanded role for religion in public schools and urged the Supreme Court to find prayers at public school graduations constitutional and “exhorted the court to loosen its test for keeping church and state separate.”
- Roberts’s brief urged the Court to favor a “more general principle implicit in the traditions relied upon in Marsh v. Chambers,” where the Supreme Court upheld the practice of a state legislature of beginning its sessions with non-sectarian prayer, noting that the practice existed when the Constitution was ratified. Marsh is a unique case that has never been applied by the Court outside its factual setting and certainly not in the public school context.
- Roberts opposes environmental protections
- Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 1990
- As Acting Solicitor General, Roberts went against a case brought by citizens seeking to enforce environmental protections in response to the government’s decision to open 4,500 acres of public land to mining activity on April 6, 1990.
- Roberts Supports Scalia’s Assault on the Environment
- Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 1992
- In a 1993 Duke Law Journal article, Roberts wrote in support of Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in the critical 1992 Supreme Court case Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, which significantly limited citizens’ ability to bring challenges to government actions harming the environment.
- Roberts opposes regulations intended to help the environment
- Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton, 2004
- As a Judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, Judge Roberts was one of two judges to dissent from a decision that upheld the Endangered Species Act as a permissible exercise of Congress’ authority under the commerce clause.
- Rancho Viejo had sued the government after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined its project would threaten the existence of an endangered species, the arroyo toad.
Aiding Corporate Interests
- Roberts’ constitutional interpretation favors big business and the wealthy
- “The Takings Clause,” Developments in the Law – Zoning ,1978
- Roberts argued that Takings Clause should be interpreted to protect corporations from legislation that might increase their obligations to their workers, such as pension protection, and not, as Justice Brennan had asserted, to protect individuals from decisions by states that nullified rights by reneging on contracts.
- Roberts criticized Justice Brennan’s plain language interpretation of the Contract Clause, arguing instead that, “Constitutional protections, however, should not depend merely on a strict construction that may allow ‘technicalities of form to dictate consequences of substance.’”Roberts favors mining interests over people’s interests
- Roberts helps protect developers’ interests
- Bragg v. West Virginia Coal Association, 2001
- During his private practice, Roberts filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief for the National Mining Association before the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case that involved West Virginians hurt by the practice known as mountaintop removal mining.
- Roberts fights for big media conglomerates
- Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission, 2002
- Roberts served as the attorney for Fox Television, the network owned by conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, in its challenge of governmental regulations. Fox won its challenge to the federal government’s ownership and cross-ownership rules given the lack of proof of a potential for monopoly on Fox’s part and the federal government’s imprecise definition of the term “diversity” to justify its need for the rule.
- Roberts argues against the right to protest
- United Mine Workers of America v. Bagwell, 1994
- In a case before the Supreme Court, Roberts argued on behalf of mining companies who wanted to use criminal contempt fines to force the end of a strike which had been ruled unlawful. The case ended in a ruling in favor of the unions.
- Roberts fights against disabled workers’ rights
- Toyota Motor Mfg., Kentucky v. Williams,2002
- He represented Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc., in its successful petition arguing that a worker with carpal tunnel syndrome was not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, even though she was fired for an injury acquired on the job.
Sources for Case Examples
446 U.S. 55 (1980).
(10th Cir. 1989), 890 F.2d 1483
503 U.S. 467 (1992)
534 US 103 (2001).
262 F.3d 1306 (Fed. Cir. 2001).
501 U.S. 129 (1991).
504 U.S. 25 (1992)
Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 327 (1972) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting).
24 F.3d 1223, 1226 (10th Cir. 1994)
( U.S. v. Brown, 2004); http://slate.msn.com/id/2121270/?nav=ais
370 F.3d, 1223, (D.C. Cir. 2004).
( Fletcher v. District of Columbia, 2004); http://slate.msn.com/id/2121270/?nav=ais
370 F.3d 41 (D.C. Cir. 2004)
125 S. Ct. 972 (2005)
500 U.S. 173 (1991)
Washington Post July 17, 2005http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/16/AR2005071601049.html
500 U.S. 173 (1991)
Hartford Courant July 14, 2005
506 U.S. 263 (1993)
The Hotline July 7, 2005
496 U.S. 226 (1990)
496 U.S. 310 (1990)
United States v. Eichman, United States v. Haggerty, Brief for the United States at p.23-4.
505 U.S. 577 (1992)
St. Petersburg Times June 26, 2005
463 U.S. 783 (1983)
497 U.S. 871 (1990)
497 U.S. 871 (1990). Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 1989 U.S. Briefs 640 at p.1, Reply Brief for Petitioners, April 6, 1990
112 S.Ct. 2130 (1992)
“Comment: Article III Limits on Statutory Standing,” John G. Roberts, Jr. 42 Duke L.J. 1219, April, 1993.
334 F.3d 1158 (D.C. Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 2061 (2004)
Legal Times November 1, 2004
States News Service May 9, 2005- Released by Senator Reid’s office
Legal Times November 1, 2004
Harvard Law Review 1462, 1464 (1978).
quoting United States v. Central Eureka Mining Co., 357 U.S. 155, 181 (1958)
248 F.3d 275 (4th Cir. 2001)
The Baltimore Sun July 20, 2005
535 U.S. 302 (2002)
The Baltimore Sun July 20, 2005
F.3d 1027 (D.C. Cir. 2002)
512 U.S. 821 (1994)
534 U.S. 184 (2002)