A long-time Washington, DC insider is President Bush’s choice to be the newest member of the U-S Supreme Court, and Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa says he was surprised by the choice of John G. Roberts, Junior. Grassley was expecting Bush to choose a woman to succeed the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor. “I mean, it’s not like President Reagan trying to break the barrier, giving women representation on the Supreme Court. That barrier’s been broken,” Grassley says. “But on the other hand, you know, there’s just a heck of a lot of qualified women.” Grassley says he’s hoping the Senate considers the Roberts nomination “dispassionately.” Grassley says Senators, particularly Democrats, asked to be consulted by the president before Bush made his pick, and Bush talked with 70 of the 100 senators before he made last night’s announcement. “I hope the Senate will give the president the same respect,” Grassley says. In 2003, Grassley voted to confirm Roberts for a federal Circuit Court, but Grassley isn’t ready to say he’ll vote “yes” on Roberts’ nomination to the nation’s highest court. “I’m not going to make a public statement in support of him until after I get a chance to interview him in my office,” Grassley says. “I honestly feel that there’s a little higher standard…to sit on the Supreme Court than to be on the circuit court…It’s one of the most-weighty decisions for a senator, but more importantly, it’s probably a more-weighty decision for a president because his influence on the courts is going to be longer-lasting than a lot of the policy decisions he makes except maybe in the area of foreign policy and national defense.” Roberts, who is 50 years old, has been a judge on the U-S Circuit Court in D-C for the past two years. Before that, Roberts worked in the Reagan and first Bush Administrations and in private practice, and he has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court. University of Iowa law professor Stephanos Bibas worked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for three years, and Bibas says Roberts has a “legendary reputation” around DC. “You can tell that from his paper record, his sterling resume, but beyond that everyone likes him personally and everyone thinks extremely highly of his analytical abilities, his oral argument abilities,” Bibas says. “Everyone gives him glowing reviews.” Bibas says it’s his sense that the Supreme Court Justices thought highly of Roberts when he argued cases before the court. “He was very eloquent…but in a very down-home, Midwestern kind of way,” Bibas says. “It would make him a very effective and well-liked justice.” Bibas says Roberts seems to be a masterful pick for Bush. “His credentials are drop-dead gorgeous…He’s a boy scout and people like him,” Bibas says. “Bush’s conservative base will be happy, but liberals will find it very difficult to attack him.” Drake law professor Mark Kende agrees. “When he was nominated to the federal court of appeals, he received some significant bipartisan support from lawyers in DC, both important Democrats and Republicans, so he’s not the easiest guy to sort of say ‘Well, he’s a total partisan who only a Republican would support,'” Kende says. “At the end of the day, things like personality do matter.” Kende says Roberts was not a surprise pick to the legal community. “He has a great reputation among lawyers,” Kende says. Bibas, the U-of-I law professor, says Roberts would likely be a lot different from the out-going O’Connor who was a legislator before arriving at the court and wound up being the swing vote on many cases. Bibas describes Roberts as a “lawyer’s lawyer” who would be a “crisper thinker” than O’Connor. Roberts, a graduate of Harvard, must be confirmed by the U-S Senate to get a seat on the nation’s high court. Roberts was confirmed to his current post on the federal bench by a voice vote in the Senate back in 2003. Democrat Tom Harkin, Iowa’s other U-S Senator, issued a written, three-sentence statement last night, saying he would “not rush to a decision before fully evaluating Judge Roberts’ credentials, qualifications and record to ensure he respects the rights and freedoms of all Americans.” Harkin went on to say “a Supreme Court Justice must be commited to impartially protecting the civil rights and liberties of all Americans including Americans with disabilities.” Harkin is a co-author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law by the first President Bush.
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