John G. Roberts Jr. was one of President Bush’s noncontroversial picks for the appeals court. Getting there, however, was a long time coming.
First nominated for the bench in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, Roberts was never given a hearing nor confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. He was nominated by the current President Bush in 2001, but the nomination again died. Bush renominated him in January 2003, and he was ultimately confirmed.
The Senate confirmed his nomination on May 8, 2003, by a voice vote.
During the Clinton administration years, Roberts became a highly sought-after private lawyer in Supreme Court cases, representing clients such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association in a discrimination case and car maker Toyota in winning limits on disabled workers’ claims.
Unlike some possible Supreme Court nominees, Roberts, 50, is considered low-key and has generally avoided weighing in on disputed social issues.
Abortion rights groups, however, have maintained that he tried during his days as a lawyer in the first Bush administration to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
Roberts did co-write a brief that stated, “We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled.” Pressed during his 2003 confirmation hearing for his own views on the matter, Roberts said: “Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There’s nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent.”
Roberts’ nomination to the appellate bench attracted support from both ends of the ideological spectrum. Some 146 members of the D.C. Bar signed a letter urging his confirmation, including Clinton administration officials.
The letter said: “He is one of the very best and most highly respected appellate lawyers in the nation, with a deserved reputation as a brilliant writer and oral advocate. He is also a wonderful professional colleague both because of his enormous skills and because of his unquestioned integrity and fair-mindedness.
Roberts was associate counsel to President Reagan from 1982-86 and then served in the first Bush administration arguing cases before the Supreme Court from 1989-93. The Harvard graduate — undergraduate and law school — clerked for William H. Rehnquist when he was an associate justice on the high court.