Sunday, July 24, 2005

Justice John Roberts

Manuel Miranda's op-ed about Roberts in Friday's Journal is very interesting, and he makes good points on both sides of the coin. First he deals with the left:
"The enthusiastic embrace of John Roberts by radical right leaders who have been demanding more far-right activists like Scalia and Thomas on the court should sound alarm bells." That was Ralph Neas, the well-paid lobbyist for Hollywood radicals and trial lawyers nationwide, who heads the People for the American Way. Or as my crazy-talk cousin-in-law put it: "Most telling is the fact that the far-right wackos love him," he said, referring to yours truly.
Oh, brother. So far, that's the best the radical left has to offer. Get back to me.
Then, interestingly, he deals with the right:
Instead, let's turn... to "far-right wacko" Ann Coulter. The day after the nomination the columnist offered criticism of Judge Roberts from the right, calling the next justice, a "Souter in Roberts' clothing." Some conservatives might want to dismiss Ms. Coulter. Not me. She is always provocative (that is a good thing), and a powerful writer. In questioning whether Judge Roberts will be the kind of justice whose rulings will reflect the values of social conservatives, she expressed the worries of everyone who hopes the president we got-out-the-vote-for got it right. Ms. Coulter describes Judge Roberts as "a blank slate" and she states a fact, "Stealth nominees have never turned out to be a pleasant surprise for conservatives." She adds: "The fact that Roberts has gone through 50 years on this planet without ever saying anything controversial. That's just unnatural."

Excellent points all. As Coulter herself points out,
Maybe Roberts will contravene the sordid history of "stealth nominees" and be the Scalia or Thomas that Bush promised us when he was asking for our votes. Or maybe he won't. The Supreme Court shouldn't be a game of Russian roulette.
In a sense, it makes a lot of sense to say that as the voters have chosen a conservative Republican House, a conservative Republican Senate, and a conservative Republican President they have a right to expect that a conservative court be appointed.
But Miranda saves the best for his own analysis:
But she's wrong on this one. John Roberts has been working in the maelstrom of public life for three decades; at any moment he could have tripped up or been betrayed. He has navigated those waters and emerged with the respect of those who know him, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal. No, he is not a politician who makes promises he may or may not keep. No, there is no clear read on how he will rule on this or that issue (most especially abortion). But that is what makes conservatives the good guys. We want judges who will be judges, not judges who are a sure thing. That's the way they do things in other countries, where the rule of law is whatever the political class says it is.
This is truly Miranda's best point. To complain about judges who legislate from the bench, then proceed to install judges who legislate the way we want them to, would be hypocritical. In truth, if we are self-honest, we want judges who will follow as they see fit based upon the Constitution. If the judge does follow these guidelines, the most likely outcome will be one that will satisfy us on most occasions. There will be times, however, when this will not be the case; and we must learn to accept that an honest judge may not always rule in our favor.
Finally, Miranda ends with the most intriguing line of all:
Perhaps Judge Roberts will prove not to be another Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. My grandmother always told me that you can know a man by knowing with whom he associates. If Judge Roberts turns out to be in the mold of his former boss, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, that is fine with me.
Me too.