Labor lawyer Nathan Newman, whose views on Supreme Court issues I have come to place deep trust in over the last couple years, has posted his thoughts about John Roberts, Bush's Supreme Court nominee. He comes away with an optimistic attitude (emphasis his).
I've actually had a chance to read through Roberts' hearings when he was up for the Court of Appeals and I have to admit I feel (relatively) more hopeful.
[T]he most likely possibility is that he won't be surprising and here's my bet on how he will perform from the evidence. In general, he will be less of a judicial activist than O'Connor in both bad ways but also potentially good ways.
Where there is no constitutional issue, he will unquestionably interpret statutes in a conservative manner, and where there is ambiguity in a statute, I am sure that Roberts will likely always take the interpretation that favors corporate and rightwing interests. But O'Connor was no different as a dependable vote for business interests.
But reading his decisions and his statements in the hearings, Roberts really does seem to believe in deferring to elected government, which is probably not surprising for someone who spent so much of his career representing governments arguing on behalf of courts not overriding their power.
So to the extent that Roberts sticks to these principles, he will be a conservative Justice but not one that will use his thirty years on the bench to block a lot of progressive legislation from the bench.
Again, he may be a raving activist lunatic beneath the hood, but on the evidence he may be exactly what Bush says he is, a judge who won't legislative from the bench. If that's the compromise that Dems have extracted through the threat of a filibuster, I'll take that as a small victory.
If Newman's optimistic analysis ends up being correct, then that is far more than a small victory. That is a giant leap. (Though it's sad that keeping the court about the same ideologically, when it is already quite conservative, is such a great victory.)
Newman points out that he still thinks Democrats should filibuster Roberts, presumably due to reasons he gave in a post yesterday (emphasis his again):
So if his career is one of years of political hack partisanship, sprinkled with a few years acting as a well-paid hack on behalf of corporate interests, why should we believe Roberts has the temperment to be an independent Justice?
If the words Roberts wrote for all his clients don't reflect work upon which he should be evaluated, then the two years on the bench is too little experience to be confirmed.
And if all John Roberts can say is, sorry, I've been a partisan hack for twenty-five years, so I don't have any vision that I can talk about -- well, that's not good enough either and he should be rejected.
Hopefully the confirmation hearings will shed more light on which of these interpretations of Roberts, if either, is the correct one.