More on John Roberts

RobertsMore on Judge Roberts’ involvement in the 1996 gay rights case:

Jean Dubofsky, the lead plaintiff”s lawyer in the 1996 Romer v. Evans gay discrimination case, said she asked John Roberts, an appellate lawyer at the time, to participate in the case because she knew that Roberts was a conservative who could provide an “insider’s road map” to getting the votes to win and he did, advising her that to pick up the middle of the court she would have to do so without overturning a prior sodomy case, Bowers v. Hardwick.

Dubofsky: “So when I was asked by Justice Scalia if they would have to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick to rule my way, I said no. In this particular case if you wanted to get the U.S. Supreme Court turned around on gay rights issues, you didn’t have to win every gay rights case floating around out there.”

Walter A. Smith, in charge of pro bono work at Roberts’ firm, said he was able to recruit Roberts to work on the case because “It looked like a challenging, interesting, provocative, important case. Everybody knew that, and I think he believed it was worth his time.”

So, the question arises, since Roberts has pointed out that lawyers do not always agree with their clients, where does he truly stand on the issue? Smith says “Every good lawyer knows that if there is something in his client’s cause that so personally offends you, morally, religiously, if it so offends you that you think it would undermine your ability to do your duty as a lawyer, then you shouldn’t take it on, and John wouldn’t have. So at a minimum he had no concerns that would rise to that level.”

What this says to me is that if Roberts did have moral objections to the subject matter of the case, his ambitious professional interests trumped them at that time. But where would he stand on the issue today? As the NYT points out, “Judge Roberts has made it a point to note that lawyers do not always agree with their clients.” It’s an unanswered question, and one that I certainly hope will be brought up in the hearings.

The other outstanding question is why did he not disclose the fact that he had worked on this case? Because he was not the chief litigator as Smith has said? Or because he knew that mention of it would possibly rile ultra-conservative factions, as it is now doing, into putting up enough question marks to trouble his nomination?

If anything, Roberts seems by all this evidence to be an extremely sharp strategist with an acute sense of how to get votes on or off the bench.

>>In related news, he also once played Peppermint Patty in an all-male high school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which begs the question — did Roberts characterization of a strong butch woman imply a sympathetic leaning toward lesbians, or was this role taken on simply toward the pursuit of sharpening up his acting skills? Inquiring minds want to know.

Court Nominee Advised Group on Gay Rights [nyt]


  1. says

    Seems to me Roberts is a fair, upstanding guy. Unlike most of the Elitist Left, he’s able to put distance between his personal beliefs and his civic duty. That’s EXACTLY what I want in a judge. I had initial reservations, but I get more excited about this guy with every story I read.

  2. Ron says

    So let me get this correct. If Roberts didn’t help on cases like this he’s a bigot and not worthy of a seat on the court. But, if Roberts did help on a case like this then he’s ambitious and calculating and not worthy of a seat on the court. I think if one were to step back and take a calm and rational look, one would see a conservative lawyer who understands the concept of fairness and inclusion. Maybe less reading of HRC releases and more thought would be appropriate.

  3. says

    I really haven’t made up my mind about Roberts’ suitability, I’m definitely putting “more thought” into it, so no, you haven’t got it correct. I actually think this post was very calm and rational. And your comment about HRC is simply ridiculous. I’ve maybe mentioned them 3 or 4 times in the thousands of posts on this site, and though I am extremely liberal, my reporting on what HRC puts out in their press releases (like my reporting on what many other organizations put out in their press releases) in no way constitutes an endorsement of that group’s policies unless that is plainly stated. So don’t take your personal qualms with HRC and try to stick them in my backyard in the context of a stab at me.

  4. Lee says

    As you may know, Andy, there is a thoughtful review of gay rights and Supreme Court in the August 1st issue of the New Yorker (“Sex and the Supremes”). The article discusses Roberts in some detail. I am no Supreme Court scholar, but I would note that anyone who reads a certain number of court opinions, including the opinions of the Supreme Court, knows that judges/justices, especially “strict constructionists”, on the right have their own issues with judicial restraint. What about a Justice that writes disparagingly of the “homosexual agenda” in Supreme Court opinions?

  5. Mitch says

    Here’s the problem I see. We’re going to get a conservative nominee out of Bush. The Dems are determined to sink him and in aggressively pursuing this line of questioning, which they will, they might peel off enough far right votes to sink him.

    Again, let’s take what we can get and this guy strikes me as that. I’m glad to see Andy’s keeping an open mind about Roberts. He strikes me as a good and decent man.

  6. John says

    I think its fantastic that Cyd, unlike us elitists, is able to separate his personal beliefs from his civic duty. Its what allows such straight-acting, sports-loving studs to enjoy swank Fire Island vacations instead of enlisting in a bloody war they support. Cheers, Cyd! Your name calling is priceless. Btw, those flecks of foam look great with your Speedos.

  7. Joe says

    As Mitch points out, this may be the best way we can do given the political base of this adminstration. I think the Democrats are going to go with Roberts.

  8. Damon says

    Ah John, couldn’t put it better myself.

    I won’t lie though. I’ve seen pictures of Roberts when he was a lot younger and he’s quite the handsome man I’ll admit.

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