Issues > John Roberts: Another Witless Slave to
John Roberts: Another Witless
Slave to "Precedence"
by Daniel Newby,
August 12, 2005
Bush's supreme court nominee, John Roberts, certainly has a
way with other peoples' words. Are his views on
conscience and "precedent" reasonable or dangerous?
1. John Roberts on Conscience &
2. Ramifications of Robert's
3. Tyranny of "Precedence" is
Roberts on Conscience & "Precedent"
Bush's nominee, federal appeals judge John
Roberts, definitely portrays himself as the go-along,
get-along type. In his own words at the 2003 confirmation
hearing for his current judgeship:
"I'd have to say that I don't have an
overarching, guiding way of reading the Constitution. I
think different approaches are appropriate in different
types of constitutional provisions... I'm going to follow
both the decisions I agree with and the decisions that I
don't agree with, regardless of any personal view."
continue to mis-cite Roberts's "settled law" comment to
suggest his views on Roe v. WadeMatters," Media Matters
for America, 7/21/2005.
"There's no role for advocacy with respect to
personal beliefs or views on the part of a judge. The judge
is bound to follow the Supreme Court precedent."
views aren't clear in work representing others,"
Joan Biskupic, Toni Locy and Richard Willing, USA Today,
"Well, I will follow the lead of the Supreme
Court majority in any precedents that are applicable there.
And if Justices Scalia and Thomas are in dissent in those
cases, I am not going to follow the dissent. I'm going to
follow the majority."
Additional Roberts Quote: "I do have a history
of litigating cases, and when you talk about the ability to
set aside personal views and apply precedent without regard to
personal ideology or personal views, thatís something Iíve
been able to do in my practice. My practice has not been
ideological in any sense. My clients and their positions are
liberal and conservative across the board. I have argued in
favor of environmental restrictions and against takings
claims. I have argued in favor of affirmative action. Iíve
argued in favor of prisonersí rights under the 8th Amendment.
Iíve argued in favor of antitrust enforcement. At the same
time, Iíve represented defendants charged with anti-trust
cases. Iíve argued cases against affirmative action. And what
I have been able to do in each of those cases is set aside any
personal views and discharge the professional obligation of an
advocate. And I would argue you look at cases on both sides.
Look at the brief, look at the argument where I was arguing
the pro-environmental position. Take a brief and an argument
where I was against environmental enforcement on behalf of a
client. See if the professional skills applied, the zealous
advocacy is any different in either of those cases. I would
submit to you that it is not. Now, thatís not judging, I
understand that, but it is the same skill, setting aside
personal views, taking the precedents and applying them either
as an advocate or as a judge." (Source:
Ramifications of Robert's Views
Did you catch that? Roberts just confessed that
he did not possess any sense of guidance on how to read the
constitution. Regardless of the issue, his admitted course as
a lower judge was to blindly follow the "precedence" of the
majority of persons who composed the "supreme" court ó his
conscience notwithstanding. (But wait, without a guiding way
to look at our once-constitutional republic anyway, a
conscience really isn't relevant!)
If Roberts had no personal ability to interpret
the meaning of the words written on the document that
supposedly governs us all, of what use is he now, and what
experience does he really offer? While he appears to be
technically capable of "reading" the words on the document, he
had nothing to personally offer on how those pretty words
might have meant to those who came before him seeking justice.
Are we to believe that comprehension and the
insightful art of interpreting language and intent only
activate once one is elevated to the "supreme" court? When the
"supremes" of this court are compared to those of the past,
remarkable differences in both insight and interpretation are
obvious. This crop has no qualm overturning past precedent
whenever it suits them.
So when, precisely, did lower judges lose the
independence and ability to oppose insights and
interpretations of others in government service? Did the
"supreme" court revisit Mount Sinai without our knowing and
bring down a fresh set of tablets that only they can alter ó
and to which all other judges and individuals are forever
If the supposed wisdom of those who are
"supreme" ó or who made decisions in the past ó are
beyond questioning, then why do we need people at all? Let's
just plug in a computer with a few algorithms on past
precedent and have it spit out the correct answer to every
court case. We don't need to waste taxpayer dollars on people
like Roberts who only regurgitate what was previously decided
of "Precedence" is Not New
Robert's witless slavery to the notion of
"precedence" and to the "supreme" court was amply ridiculed
over 200 years ago by American revolutionary Thomas Paine in
Rights of Man, Part II, Chapter IV:
"Almost every case now must be determined by
some precedent, be that precedent good or bad, or whether it
properly applies or not; and the practice is become so
general, as to suggest a suspicion, that it proceeds from a
deeper policy than at first sight appears... This preaching
up of the doctrine of precedents, drawn from times and
circumstances antecedent to those events, has been the
studied practice of the English government. The generality
of those precedents are founded on principles and opinions,
the reverse of what they ought; and the greater distance of
time they are drawn from, the more they are to be suspected.
But by associating those precedents with a superstitious
reverence for ancient things, as monks shew relics and call
them holy, the generality of mankind are deceived into the
design. Governments now act as if they were afraid to awaken
a single reflection in man. They are softly leading him to
the sepulchre of precedents, to deaden his faculties and
call his attention from the scene of revolutions. They feel
that he is arriving at knowledge faster than they wish, and
their policy of precedents is the barometer of their fears.
This political popery, like the ecclesiastical popery of
old, has had its day, and is hastening to its exit. The
ragged relic and the antiquated precedent, the monk and the
monarch, will moulder together. Government by precedent,
without any regard to the principle of the precedent, is one
of the vilest systems that can be set up...
"Either the doctrine of precedents is policy
to keep man in a state of ignorance, or it is a practical
confession that wisdom degenerates in governments as
governments increase in age, and can only hobble along by
the stilts and crutches of precedents. How is it that the
same persons who would proudly be thought wiser than their
predecessors, appear at the same time only as the ghosts of
departed wisdom? How strangely is antiquity treated! To
answer some purposes it is spoken of as the times of
darkness and ignorance, and to answer others, it is put for
the light of the world. If the doctrine of precedents, is to
be followed, the expences of government need not continue
the same. Why pay men extravagantly, who have but little to
do? If every thing that can happen is already in precedent,
legislation is at an end, and precedent, like a dictionary,
determines every case. Either, therefore, government has
arrived at its dotage, and requires to be renovated, or all
the occasions for exercising its wisdom have occurred. We
now see all over Europe, and particularly in England, the
curious phaenomenon of a nation looking one way, and a
government the other ó the one forward and the other
backward. If governments are to go on by precedent, while
nations go on by improvement, they must at last come to a
final separation; and the sooner, and the more civilly, they
determine this point, the better."
Judge Roberts and his government handlers can
put that in their precedent pipe and smoke it.
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