The fight is just beginning over President Bush’s choice for the Supreme Court. John G. Roberts, Junior, wrote a legal brief arguing against abortion rights when he worked in the Reagan Administration. Drake University law professor Mark Kende says groups that support abortion rights will seize on that argument and try to “make a big deal about it.” Kende says the “complicated part” of that argument, though, is Roberts will argue he was working for a client — former President Reagan — and such legal briefs represent the views of the client, not the lawyer writing it. Kende says Roberts “doesn’t have a long paper trail” of written opinions because he’s only been on the federal circuit court for two years. His only paper trail are the briefs he wrote during his work for the Reagan and first Bush Administration, and Kende says Roberts can always say he was simply representing his clients’ interests. “That puts the Democrats in a kind of awkward position,” Kendee says. University of Iowa law professor Stephanos Bibas agrees. “It’s going to be a very effective response to say ‘I was President Reagan’s lawyer…I had to argue what he wanted me to argue and I wasn’t putting in my own opinions and I can’t discuss my own opinions because there’s another abortion case — a partial birth abortion case — that’s going to come before the Supreme Court later this year,” Bibas says. He says many of the other candidates Bush was considering had gone “on the record” to say Roe v. Wade should be over-turned, but Bibas says Roberts has never made such a personal, public statement on the issue. But that legal brief Roberts wrote in the 1980s is at the center of today’s debate according to Kathi Di Nicola of Plannted Parenthood of Greater Iowa. “Well, it’s certainly clear that that’s a threat to the privacy rights and personal freedom of women and families to make private health care decisions for themselves,” Di Nicola says. Di Nicola says she and other abortion rights advocates will make their views known to Iowa’s two senators who will be voting on Roberts’ nomination. Di Nicola says “grassroots activists” are ready for the confirmation fight. “We have reached the conclusion that we are going to watch this very carefully,” Di Nicola says. “We’re relying heavily on the Senate to carry out the confirmation process in a manner that is thorough, thoughtful and intelligent.” Most conservatives intend to support Roberts’ nomination. Chuck Hurley of the Iowa Family Policy Center says Iowa conservatives will pressure the U.S. senators who’re considering a bid for the White House to vote for Roberts since those senators are going to come to Iowa to campaign. “Half a dozen senators have indicated very strong interest in the presidency and their vote will be watched very, very carefully (by conservatives),” Hurley says. “We are playing for keeps. It’s the biggest issue, policy wise, that social issue groups face because even if we get an outstanding bill passes or a court decision in our favor, the Supremes can knock it down,” Hurley says. Roberts seems to be a “very careful, fair” judge, according to Hurley, but Hurley says conservatives still want a bit more information before going to the mat for him. Hurley says they need to examine his “personal views” on homosexuality and abortion. “I’m sure if any of those smoking guns emerge, they will be loudly trumpeted by one side or the other,” Hurley says. One nationally-known conservative has expressed doubts about Roberts, saying he’s a “stealth nominee” about whom they know little and who could turn out to be a completely different justice than people imagine.
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