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The Roberts Nomination


On July 19, 2005, John G. Roberts Jr. was nominated by President Bush to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Community Rights Counsel published an opinion piece in the Washington Post shortly after Roberts' nomination. We have subsequently been quoted in a number of news stories discussing Judge Roberts environmental views.

In a letter released on September 2, 2005 to Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, Community Rights Counsel and six other national environmental organizations raised important concerns about the nomination of Roberts.

With Bush’s announcement on September 6, 2005 that Roberts will be nominated to be Chief Justice of the United States following the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, these concerns become of paramount importance. As explained in a memorandum entitled “The Chief Justice, Federalism, and Access to Federal Courts,” as spokesperson for the federal judiciary and chair of the Judicial Conference, the Chief Justice can use this authority to amplify his own vision of the proper role of the federal judiciary. To see a release for this memorandum click here.

On September 8, 2005, Community Rights Counsel along with other national environmental organizations released a second letter to Specter and Leahy raising additional concerns about the nomination of Roberts to Chief Justice.

As head of the Judicial Conference and primary spokesperson for the judicial branch, the Chief Justice wields enormous power over the development and implementation of ethical mandates. With three of the country’s leading experts in judicial ethics arguing that Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. should not have participated in Hamdan v. United States, an important war-on-terror case, while interviewing for a seat on the Supreme Court, ethical issues were already sure to be a topic at his confirmation hearings. 

With his nomination to be the Chief Justice of the United States, Roberts’ views on judicial ethics become far more important. As explained in a memorandum entitled “The Special Powers of the Chief Justice: Judicial Ethics,” Chief Justice Rehnquist fiercely defended the ability of judges to make essentially unreviewable decisions about the propriety of their own judicial conduct. To see a release for this memorandum click here.

On September 15, 2005 during his fourth day of testimony, Roberts declared that it was “clear” that “special interests should not be permitted to lobby federal judges” and he committed to examining the problem of corporate-funded junkets for judges if confirmed as Chief Justice.  During the hearing, former EPA Administrator Carol Browner testified about the environmental stakes in the direction of the Supreme Court, citing in her testimony the environmental concern letter CRC and other national environmental groups sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee recently, and CRC’s Hostile Environment report.

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