Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Deciphering the Robertspeak

In a 2000 television interview on the Dallas station WFAA, Judge John Roberts provided insight into what his political leanings may be:
In the interview Roberts, then working as a private practice attorney, seemed to suggest that he would favor prayer in school settings as long as it was student-led. He also called the court's Boy Scouts of America v. Dale ruling -- which allowed the Scouts to prohibit homosexual leaders -- an "important" First Amendment victory for conservatives. But Roberts did not explicitly outline his personal views in either case. He also never referred to the conservative movement as "we," even though he was on the panel supposedly to represent the conservative viewpoint.

As a former attorney, Roberts does employ a lot of "lawyer-speak" when dealing with these issues. But the fact that he chooses to highlight conservative victories (and defeats) in the courts seems to indicate that he follows these matters with keen interest:

Asked to analyze the 2000 court session, Roberts said, "[T]aking this term as a whole, I think the most important thing it did was make a compelling case that we do not have a very conservative Supreme Court. Take the three biggest headline cases -- Miranda, school prayer, abortion. [The] conservative view lost in each of them."

In those cases, the court reaffirmed its 1966 "Miranda rights" decision, ruled that prayer was not allowed at a Texas high school football game and overturned a Nebraska law that had banned partial-birth abortion.

On the issue of school prayer, he added:

"I think the argument about government-sponsored, government-initiated prayer in schools is over," Roberts said in response to a question. "But that's not necessarily all that we're talking about. The test, as I see it, is, if the prayer is genuinely student-initiated, student-led and does not look like something the government -- the school district -- is sponsoring, then it's going to be alright. But if the government is involved either in initiating it or sponsoring it, then you run into trouble."

So it at least sounds to those on both sides of the political spectrum like Roberts may indeed lean to the right. How far right remains to be seen.

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