President Bush’s selection of the Hon. John Roberts is an interesting choice. The betting, and there had been betting, was on a minority or female candidate. Instead, President Bush swings for the fences with a middle-aged, white male. Let the ugliness begin.
Regardless of your political views, Roberts’ intellectual competency cannot be questioned. This man was a very competent lawyer and is a thoughtful judge. As an advocate, his arguments before the Supreme Court were always creative and thorough. As a judge, his written opinions reveal sound analytical skills and logical interpretations of the facts at hand.
The current court constituency has been together for far too long and is intellectually vacant on many issues. The leading intellectuals, Rehnquist and O’Connor are the undisputed “thinkers” on the court. Obviously, O’Connor is gone and Rehnquist will undoubtedly take a reduced roll in light of his serious health issues. The poor man looks like hell!
Of the remaining justices, none is particularly sharp and certainly not a leader of the court. Scalia is a publicity hound and hurls insults at all who disagree with him. Thomas issues opinions that nearly everyone agrees are simply bizarre. Stevens has always taken a back seat and Ginsburg certainly will be in the minority. The remaining Justices are often wildly inconsistent and certainly have issued a number of opinions that turn on the most inane of facts. The recent contradictory decisions regarding the 10 Commandments are perfect examples of a Court gone adrift.
If confirmed, John Roberts will be the first step in bringing solid legal reasoning back to the bench. By solid, I don’t mean liberal or conservative thinking. I simply mean decisions that are logically consistent. Of all the current Justices, Roberts would clearly be the best choice for Chief Justice when Rehnquist finally leaves the bench. .
Okay, we’ve established Robert’s is a quality judge. What effect will his confirmation have on the landmark decisions, particularly Roe v. Wade?
Make no mistake, John Roberts is very conservative. Generally, he will side with the conservatives on the bench, but not always. His vote will be critical since he is replacing Justice O’Connor, the historical swing voter. Depending upon your political leanings, this as either a good or bad thing.
Roe v. Wade
Will Roe v. Wade be overturned? This is the key to Roberts’ tenure on the bench. Personally, his conservative leanings would suggest Roe is dead in the water, but not so fast. Roberts also has a strong belief in upholding landmark cases that have set precedent for an area of law. Obviously, Roe is such a case. Nobody can predict what he will do, but we can predict that the choice will shape his future on the bench.
If Roberts votes to overturn Roe, we will see a complete re-writing of all the landmark cases. By voting to overturn, Roberts will position himself solidly with the conservative Justices on the court. Everything will be open game and the legal landscape will change dramatically.
If Roberts votes to uphold Roe, you can expect the conservative Justices to remain the minority for the foreseeable future. This prediction has everything to do with Justice Scalia.
Although championed by conservative groups, those in legal circles know that no single person has been a bigger obstacle for the conservative movement on the bench. The problem, quite simply, is Scalia is a jerk. He has a very bad habit of personally attacking other Justices in written opinions when they don’t agree with him. Justices O’Connor, Kennedy and Sauter were all supposed to be conservatives, but became moderates on the bench. The generally agreed cause is the personal attacks Scalia let fly in his dissents. Kennedy, in particular, is known to bristle at the mention of Scalia. Though they issue denials, it is well known that many Justices are not on speaking terms with Scalia. If you would like to learn more on the division, pick up a copy of “A Court Divided: The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law.”
If Scalia personally attacks Roberts in written opinions, human nature suggests Roberts will move towards the middle. Scalia will do just such a thing should Roberts vote to uphold Roe. In short, it all comes down to Roberts’ decision on Roe v. Wade.
One way or another, the Supreme Court is about to come front and center in the public eye. Within the next five years, we should see at least two more Justices, Rehnquist and Stevens, leave the bench. Once they retire, the court should remain stable for at least ten years. If only we knew how they would rule!
Richard Chapo is with http://www.SanDiegoBusinessLawFirm.com – a firm providing legal advice to California businesses. Visit http://www.sandiegobusinesslawfirm.com/business_law_articles to read more legal articles.