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July 22, 2005

A closer look at John Roberts

Roberts appeared on a PBS's NewsHour back in 1997. Here are some of his comments, which should reveal a little more of how he thinks...

...On the equality of authority of the states and the Federal government:

I do think there’s a solid majority on the court for the proposition that federalism has to be taken seriously; that states do retain rights under our federal system; and that, for example, as the sheriffs were saying to the federal government, we want you to do this, we don’t work you. They work for the states, not for the federal government. That basic division of authority is designed to protect individual rights. That’s one area where I disagree with Prof. Tribe. I think by enforcing these structural limitations, states have their powers and rights. The federal government is limited. The end objective, as the framers intended, is to protect individual rights.

...On the Supreme Courts possible recognition of the limits to its powers

Well, I think there are two themes there. On the one hand it was jealous of its power and responsibility to define the Constitution. In the Religious Freedom Act it was really saying to Congress that’s our job; don’t tell us what the First Amendment means; we’ll tell you. In other areas, though, the case that Prof. Tribe won that he mentioned, the court expressed some caution about how suitable federal courts are to decide things like these massive asbestos settlement problems and expressed some concern that courts may not be suited for all things. So I think they recognized a limitation on their branch but they were quite jealous of their prerogatives.

...On whether the Supreme Court acknowledge that.

Well, they were acknowledging their limitations, but I think it’s important not to have too narrow a view of protecting personal rights. The right that was protected in the assisted suicide case was the right of the people through their legislatures to articulate their own views on the policies that should apply in those cases of terminating life and not to have the court interfering in those policy decisions. That’s an important right as well.

...On whether the Supreme Court (in 1997) was Conservative.

Well, I think it’s a moderate court but one that is very serious about the limits it sees in the Constitution, whether it’s the limits on Congress, limitations on the federal government, or limitations on the court, itself. And if it’s a court that doesn’t seem so warm and embracing of theories that are popular on the law school campuses, I hope the other members of the panel will forgive me for not thinking that’s a serious flaw.

Roberts Coverage: Captain's Quarters, Volokh

Posted by Danny Carlton at July 22, 2005 09:28 AM

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