There are several opinion pieces worth reading regarding Judge Roberts from the past few. The first is this piece by Ed Whelan in NRO, which contains this bit about Roberts and abortion:
The third position is that the Constitution generally does not speak to the question of abortion. Under this substantively neutral position, American citizens would have the constitutional power to determine through their state representatives what the abortion policy in their own states would be. This neutral position — which three members of the current Court, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, embrace — also happens to be the proper reading of the Constitution (as I explain more fully here).
Insofar as sensible political labels might be applied to these three positions, it would seem plain that the first (pro-abortion) position would be labeled liberal (with the Roe version of that position being radical), the second (pro-life) would be labeled conservative, and the third (neutral) would be labeled moderate.
Of course, sense does not prevail in the frenzied abortion culture in which we live. Thus, the media routinely label the radical pro-abortion position as “moderate” and the substantively neutral position as “extremist right-wing.” And, of course, the media consistently understate the radical nature of the Roe regime (often pretending, for example, that Roe merely protects abortion in the first three months of pregnancy), confuse the public into thinking that reversing Roe would render abortion illegal, and then cite the public’s resulting support for the imagined Roe as supposed evidence of Roe’s moderation…
John Roberts is, by all accounts, a man of deep intellect and high character who understands the proper role of the judiciary in our constitutional republic. There is therefore good reason to hope that he will be a genuine moderate who will not read his own policy views on abortion (whatever they are) into the Constitution but who will respect the constitutional authority of the people to govern their own states and communities on this and other issues of social policy.
Read the whole thing. Next up is this piece by Jacob Sullum in Reason, titled As Bad As We Want Him To Be?:
Critics of negative campaigning say attack ads reflect poorly on the candidates they’re intended to benefit. That’s not necessarily true, but I do find that attack ads often reflect well on the candidates they’re intended to hurt.
When an announcer gravely warns me that someone running for public office opposes gun control and wants to cut spending, I think, “Hmm. He sounds pretty good.” So it is with Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, whose detractors seem intent on accentuating his positive points.
The main complaint about Roberts is that he might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. “We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled,” said a 1990 brief that he co-authored as a deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration. “The Court’s conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to abortion and that the government has no compelling interest in protecting prenatal human life throughout pregnancy finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution.”
Assuming Roberts agrees with the argument he made as the government’s lawyer, I see no cause for alarm. Given how weak the reasoning underlying Roe is—so weak that many abortion rights supporters are embarrassed by the ruling, which they consider a legal and political mistake—it would be alarming if Roberts didn’t think the case was wrongly decided.
Again, read the whole thing. The third piece is law professor William LaPiana, who has this to offer:
Some 30 years ago I was a pre-law adviser at Leverett House in Harvard College when John Roberts was an undergraduate. I hasten to add that I do not remember ever giving him any advice about going to law school. The occasion of his nomination to the Supreme Court is my excuse not for personal reminiscence but rather for some thoughts about the American legal profession at the beginning of the 21st century and about the possible future of the Supreme Court.
John Roberts is a child of the baby boom, both in age and in biography. He has come within reach of filling one of the most important roles in American life by combining a willingness to work, a good deal of ability, no doubt some good fortune and what surely were outstanding scores on standardized tests.
To society at large, Roberts is an example of what perhaps most Americans identify as our meritocratic society. His is not a story of “rags to riches,” of course, but one of outstanding performance at an elite educational institution and a rise from the middle class to the top of one of the two professions — law and medicine — that dominate the ambitions of our generation.
Cass Sunstein, writing in The New Republic, offers a discussion of various judicial philosophies, and writes:
President Bush has added both minimalists and fundamentalists to the lower courts; he has not shown a clear preference in favor of one or the other. Roberts’s record, taken as a whole, gives some modest indications that he tends toward the minimalist camp.
Here’s a good reason to think he isn’t a fundamentalist: He hasn’t publicly committed himself to it. Most fundamentalists are not in the closet. They have strong convictions about how to interpret the Constitution. They believe that the Court has gone badly off the rails, and they are not shy about announcing that fact. Bush might well have chosen another candidate, such as Judge J. Michael Luttig or Judge Janice Rogers Brown, whose fundamentalist credentials are much clearer. Minimalists don’t need, or even like, to announce themselves as such. Judge Roberts’s general silence–his unwillingness to attack existing constitutional law in any kind of public way–suggests a minimalist temperament.
There is another point. Judge Roberts’s opinions thus far are careful, lawyerly, and narrow. They avoid broad pronouncements. They do not try to reorient the law. When he disagrees with his colleagues, he does so with evident respect and with a frank recognition that reasonable people can disagree. In a separate opinion concluding that American soldiers cannot sue Iraq after being held as prisoners in the Gulf war, Roberts’s opinion on some technical issues announces his “agree[ment] with the majority that this question … is close.” His opinions show none of the swagger that can be found in some of the writings of Scalia and Thomas.
Also in the New Republic, Jeffrey Rosen adds the following cautious yet positive evaluation of Roberts, which includes this speculation about Judge Roberts:
Given Roberts’s dazzling talents–his intelligence, judgment, devotion to legal craft, and palpable belief in the power of reasoned argument to constrain judges in meaningful ways–it seems quite possible that his vision of the force of precedent might evolve and grow during decades on the Court. I don’t mean “evolve” in the sense that liberals hope and conservatives fear–that Roberts will become less conservative and more liberal. I mean, instead, that the application of his determined intelligence to the hardest and most elusive questions of constitutional law will lead Roberts to develop a vision of constitutional stability that is uniquely his own. What precisely his vision will be is probably not evident at the moment, even to Roberts himself. But, by focusing on Roberts’s judicial philosophy, rather than his views about the controversies of the moment, the Senate can do much to illuminate this crucial question in the confirmation hearings ahead.
The final piece is from Michael C. Dorf, the Michael I. Sovern Professor of Law at Columbia University, who concludes:
I doubt that President Bush directly sought from Roberts a commitment on particular issues, and as I share the general view of Roberts as a man of integrity, I am certain that if he were asked, he wouldn’t have provided such assurances. So how can movement conservatives be confident that Roberts will vote as one of them?
The short answer is that they cannot be wholly confident, but the longer answer is that they can take considerable comfort from the company Roberts keeps. He clerked for then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist when Rehnquist was clearly the Court’s most conservative member. He spent most of his career in the federal government, but only during Republican administrations. Thus, while Roberts is entitled to say that briefs he wrote, including those calling for the overruling of Roe, were in the service of a policy set by his political bosses, skeptics are equally entitled to ask why Roberts chose to work for these and not for other bosses.