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7/20/2005

Quotable quotes

John Roberts' track record is kind of scanty, in the sense that he hasn't said a whole lot about the most controversial legal issues (at least, not that I've seen so far). There are a couple of quotes that are getting a lot of attention. One of them is used to suggest that Roberts is hostile to choice:
"We continue to believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled."
Others say that not too much can be read into this, since the context was a brief filed by the first Bush administration; Roberts, they say, was simply advocating for his "client's" position, not expressing his own personal view. There's something to be said for this.

But, there's another quote that the other side is pointing to in an attempt to refute charges that Roberts poses a danger to Roe, this one from his confirmation hearings for his position on the court of appeals:
"Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent.''
This means nothing as far as Roberts' personal view toward Roe, or what he would do if given the chance to overturn it. Roberts had been nominated to the appeals court, where it was not his job to correct the past decisions of the Supreme Court, but rather to apply them. When he says that Roe is "the settled law of the land," he's just stating a fact. Roe is the settled law of the land, and an appeals court judge is simply not in a position to change that fact.

Bottom line: we can't conclude much from Roberts' public comments on Roe. All we have to go on is what you might call educated conjecture - his wife is a member of a group that advocates the criminalization of abortion, etc. - and whatever Democratic senators can squeeze out of his at the confirmation hearings.

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