Born in 1955 in Buffalo, NY, John G. Roberts, Jr. has many years of experience in the legal profession. He graduated from Harvard University
with both a B.A. and his J.D.
, the latter in 1979. Immediately after graduation, Roberts clerked for Second Circuit Judge Friendly for a year, and then Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist
. After his time clerking, Roberts moved to the Department of Justice for one year, 1981. From 1986-89, he was an associate at the firm of Hogan & Hartson LLP of Washington, D.C.
After Bush's election in 1989, he returned to the Department of Justice for four years, but after Clinton's election, he left public service to return to Hogan & Hartson as a partner, until his appointement to the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. in 2003.
Previous Judicial Experience
Roberts currently serves on the US Court of Appeals in the D.C. circuit, a position he gained in 2003. Previously, he had been nominated for the seat by George H.W. Bush in 1991, but failed to be certified. He has had other experience in public service, however, clerking for two years (1980-81) immediately after his graduation, and serving as the special assistant to the Attorney General for Reagan in 1981 and as the Deputy Solicitor General for Bush from 1989-93.
Roberts is definitely a strongly conservative judge. On the issue of abortion, Roberts wrote a brief in Rust v. Sullivan, a case to decide whether the federal government could prevent doctors in federally funded family planning programs from discussing abortions with their patients. Roberts, in his brief, took the position that the law was constitutional and, furthermore, that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. The Supreme Court upheld the law, but did not take the wider position regarding Roe v. Wade.
Regarding the environment, Roberts sides with big business and government over environmental protection. As a member of the Solicitor General's office during the first Bush administration, Roberts was the lead council in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife. In this case, the Defenders of Wildlife sued the Secretary of the Interior after he reduced the geographic area of the Endangered Species Act. While in private practice, Roberts filed an amicus brief arguing for the allowance of "mountaintop removal" for coal mining in West Virginia. In the case, three Republican appointees in the Fourth Circuit ruled that this practice did not violate the 1977 Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
Roberts also favors religion in schools, co-writing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in which he argued that religious ceremonies should be allowed during high school graduations. He was also part of the effort to remove certain parts of the Voting Rights Act and then prevent legislation against the Supreme Court's decision about the issue. Although he took part in the case against Microsoft, Roberts has supported corporations mostly. He represented Toyota Motor Manufacturing in a case regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act, in which Toyota argues that carpal tunnel syndrome does not make an employee disabled.
Roberts also belongs to the Federalist Society and the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, two legal groups who support big business and are against governmental regulation. He serves on the Legal Advisory Council for the National Legal Center for Public Interest.
What this Means to You
Roberts' record reflects a strongly conservative poltical attitude, preferring business to regulation, life to choice, and religion to separation. He is considered a "Republican heavyweight" (Washington Post) in the judiciary. He is a polarizing nominee, certain to be supported by hardline conservatives and just as certain to be despised by strong liberals. As he is only 50 years old, if nominated he will be a strong conservative force on the court for decades, certainly nothing like O'Connor, who he nominated to replace.
http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/90-1424.ZS.html (thanks Sol Invictus)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/19/AR2005071900870.html (thanks unperson)
Note: Since this writeup, Roberts has been nominated and confirmed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court following the death of William Rehnquist. This writeup is not being updated as Roberts' career progresses.