Statement by People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas
The death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and President Bush’s nomination of John Roberts for Chief Justice of the United States raise the stakes for the Court and the American people exponentially. The Chief Justice has unique power and influence as the nation’s highest ranking judge. And replacing two justices at the same time will have an enormous impact on the Court and on Americans’ lives and liberties for decades.
People For the American Way opposed Roberts’ nomination to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in large part based on his hostility to the laws and remedies that protect Americans from discrimination and his longtime efforts to restrict the role of the courts in upholding Americans’ rights and legal protections. To an even greater degree, that record makes him the wrong choice for the position of Chief Justice, and we will vigorously oppose his confirmation.
The events of the past week have only underscored that we need Supreme Court justices who value the role of the courts in protecting individuals’ rights and freedoms, who understand the nature of discrimination and its continuing impact on our country, and who will uphold the role of the federal government in preserving those rights and acting to protect the common good. John Roberts’ record makes it emphatically clear that he does not meet this standard.
The attention of the Senate should be on the tragedies still unfolding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. With the stakes now even higher for the nation, it would be irresponsible for the Senate Judiciary Committee to conduct confirmation hearings this week. The justices who are appointed to replace O’Connor and Rehnquist will serve for decades. There should be no rush to confirm them without the full attention of the Senate and the American people.
Given these stakes, President Bush and John Roberts must be held to the highest standards of openness. President Bush must immediately provide documents he has been withholding from Robert’s tenure as principal deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration. And Roberts must abandon the strategy of evasion that he pursued during his appeals court confirmation hearing and must be willing to fully answer senators’ questions about his approach to our Constitution. Excessive secrecy is an enemy of accountability and an enemy of representative democracy. Senators must be given the truth about Roberts’ judicial philosophy before they vote on whether to confirm him to the highest judicial seat in the nation.