Cultural Revolutions

A Lawyer's Lawyer

Judge John Roberts of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, whom President George W. Bush has nominated to take the place of retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, is what we used to call a “lawyer’s lawyer.”  He comes from  Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the Harvard Law Review, a clerkship for one of the most brilliant federal court of appeals judges, Henry Friendly, and a clerkship on the U.S. Supreme Court with then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist.  While in practice with the “white shoe” Washington firm of Hogan and Hartson, Roberts was one of the most prominent barristers before the U.S. Supreme Court and was said to be so good that current clerks would abandon their memo writing just to hear him.

Those who knew Roberts when young, those who went to law school with him, and those who practiced with him all seem to agree that this is a person of truly exceptional talent, yet one of much humility.  This is a combination almost unknown in Washington, and, while his nomination was quickly savaged by such left-wing groups as People for the American Way and (who feared he might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade), Democrat senators, once they got to meet the man, were remarkably kind to him.  Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who has done more than anyone to politicize judicial confirmations,...

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