Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Both sides step up battle over US court nominee


Both sides step up battle over US court nominee

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dueling special interest groups stepped up their respective efforts on Tuesday in the battle over U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, whose U.S. Senate confirmation hearing begins next week.

Progress for America, a conservative organization, unveiled a $400,000, nationwide television ad campaign, set to begin on Wednesday, in support of U.S. President George W. Bush's nomination of Roberts, while the liberal Alliance for Justice announced its opposition.

At the same time, a flap over Roberts' records mounted when the National Archives announced that more documents stemming from his work as a lawyer in the Reagan administration had been discovered and would be released as soon as possible.

The Alliance for Justice, in a 105-page report, blasted Roberts, based largely on a review of thousands of pages of documents already made public.

It said Roberts' record "suggests that he would limit Congress' long-standing ability to address nationwide problems, restrict the court's historic authority to vindicate individual rights and legal protections, expand the powers of the president and law enforcement and lower the wall separating church and state."

Chris Myers, executive director of Progress for America, dismissed the opposition by the alliance, an association of more than 70 civil rights and public interest groups, and said Roberts appeared well positioned to win Senate confirmation.

"But he is not confirmed yet and we must remain vigilant," Myers said. "We must help make the case."

Senate Democrats are anxious to grill Roberts on many issues, particularly to see if he supports the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. If confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, Roberts would be in a position to vote to overturn the ruling.

In its 60-second TV ad, Progress for America declared, "Justice depends on fair judges -- who do not prejudge cases."


It noted that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nominated to the high court by Democratic President Bill Clinton, won Senate confirmation in 1993 on a vote of 96-3 after refusing to answer questions that could come before the court.

"As with Ginsburg, Judge Roberts should not answer questions that force him to pre-judge cases," the announcer says. "Some senators will object solely for partisan reasons."

Bush's nomination of Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor appears to enjoy broad support among Republicans who control the Senate, holding 55 of 100 seats.

Key Senate Republicans have hailed Roberts, a federal appeals court judge for the past two years, as "a mainstream conservative" with impeccable credentials.

No Senate Democrat has announced opposition, but several have voiced concerns.

The confirmation hearing is set to begin next Tuesday and is expected to last at least five days.

The National Archives said the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which has released about 51,000 pages of documents related to Roberts' work the Reagan administration, had found even more.

The library is part of the National Archives, which said in a statement that Roberts' records were initially searched by the standard procedure of using his name. But it said that on Monday the library found "a large volume" that were entered by a code. It said some will duplicate previously released files.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee who has pushed for more records, complained that the "handling of information relating to this important nomination is extremely disappointing."