In Dicta

Friday, July 22, 2005

The pragamatic side of Judge Roberts

"As an up-and-coming young lawyer in the White House counsel's office from 1982 to 1986, John G. Roberts Jr. weighed in on some of the most controversial issues facing the Reagan administration, balancing conservative ideology with a savvy political pragmatism and a confidence that belied his years.


Before serving as an associate counsel in the Reagan White House, Roberts worked at the Justice Department under Attorney General William French Smith. He returned to the department in 1989, serving as principal deputy solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush.

The Reagan-era memos portray a cocksure young lawyer whose writing was clear, highly attuned to political realities and occasionally sarcastic.

Take, for instance, Roberts's response to a request sent by then-Rep. Elliott Levitas (D-Ga.) to Reagan. In 1983, the Supreme Court struck down laws that contained provisions for Congress to veto actions taken by executive departments and agencies. Levitas wanted to meet with Reagan to determine "the manner of power sharing and accountability within in the federal government." The request offended Roberts's notion of the proper separation of powers.

"There already has, of course, been a 'Conference on Power Sharing,' " Roberts wrote, sarcastically referring to the convention at which the Constitution was drafted. "It took place in Philadelphia's Constitution Hall in 1787, and someone should tell Levitas about it and the 'report' it issued."

Fielding said yesterday that during Roberts's tenure in the Reagan administration, he was known for his intelligence and dry sense of humor. While Fielding declined to comment on the specifics of any of Roberts's writings, he said they were in line with what he demanded from all his lawyers.

"My staff's role was to stimulate thoughts," Fielding said. "I encouraged people to give me their unvarnished analysis and personal views."

From The Washington Post.


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