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The dirt on John Roberts
A right-winger on every issue

August 5, 2005 | Page 9

NICOLE COLSON examines the record of George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominee.

WITH THE nomination of federal appeals court Judge John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Bush administration has rewarded its conservative base--while declaring open war on the rights of women, racial minorities, workers and victims of the U.S. "war on terror."

The first media looks at Roberts' record have focused on his far-right views on the issue of abortion. As deputy solicitor general during George Bush Sr.'s presidency, Roberts wrote the "gag" rule policy that barred federally funded clinics and physicians from mentioning the word "abortion" to their patients. Roberts also appeared before the Supreme Court, arguing that Roe v. Wade was "wrongly decided and should be overturned," saying that there is no "fundamental right to an abortion."

He also filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the fanatical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, claiming that anti-abortionists should be allowed to block access to clinics--essentially sanctioning the terrorizing of female patients seeking care from abortion providers.

It's no wonder, then, that opponents of abortion rights are cheering Roberts' nomination. Operation Rescue, for example, lauds Roberts for having "shown strong conservative credentials with indications that he will not uphold Roe v. Wade."

But while the right has found a kindred spirit in Roberts on the issue of abortion, his other actions and opinions are equally attractive to hard-core conservatives.

Roberts has ties to the ultra-conservative Federalist Society--an organization committed to "states' rights" and rolling back federal legislation that has advanced civil rights, environmental protections, and health and safety standards.

Not surprisingly, Roberts has supported restricting Title IX, the equal education law for women and girls, and is a fierce opponent of affirmative action. Working at the Justice Department in 1981, Roberts heavily criticized a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that argued in favor of affirmative action as a way to combat discrimination. Roberts wrote that the "obvious reason" affirmative action programs had failed was that they "required the recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates."

As a member of the White House counsel's office under Ronald Reagan, Roberts offered a strategy to support proposed legislation--cosponsored by racist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.)--to restrict court-ordered busing to desegregate schools. He justified his position by claiming that busing promoted "white flight." As recently as 2001, Roberts filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a challenge to federal affirmative action programs.

More recently, as a legal advisor to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000, Roberts had a hand in crafting the Republican legal strategy that ultimately upheld the disenfranchisement of thousands of Black voters in the presidential election--and put George W. Bush in the White House.

Other low-lights of Roberts' career are equally chilling.

As an attorney, Roberts was a hired gun for big business, helping to weaken protections for workers disabled on the job. In a case decided in 2001, Roberts served as lead attorney for the car giant Toyota, arguing that a female employee who was fired--after asking Toyota for accommodations to continue doing her job when she was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome--was not eligible for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Last October, as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Roberts wrote the unanimous opinion upholding the handcuffing, arrest and booking of a 12-year-old girl for eating a single french fry--as a result of a "zero tolerance" crackdown by transit police.

And just days before his nomination to the Supreme Court was announced, Roberts joined in a unanimous decision that so-called "enemy combatants" at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, can be tried by "military commissions" set up by the Bush administration--in effect denying them the right to due process and a fair trial. Georgetown University professor Neal Katyal told the Washington Post that the decision is "contrary to 200 years of constitutional law," and will allow Bush to "set up an entire architecture of justice as he sees fit."

Liberal Democrats promised a vigorous fight if Bush tried to nominate a Supreme Court justice who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. But in keeping with the party's continuing slide to the right on abortion, few leading Democrats have said anything critical of Roberts. As liberal Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC's Meet the Press, "I said to [Roberts] the other day, 'If you will be honest and forthcoming, you're going to find a warm reception from our side of the aisle, even if we disagree with you on any given issue.'"

We can't rely on the Democrats to protect abortion rights--or anything else we value. We need to build a movement in the streets that challenges the right wing's attack on our rights and civil liberties--and tells the politicians of all stripes that we won't go back.

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