John Roberts pledged to keep an open mind and respect settled law if confirmed to the Supreme Court, telling Senate committee members in a questionnaire that precedent is important in “promoting the stability of the legal system.”
The response, numbering about 100 pages and released by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, provides Roberts’ responses to a broad array of questions, including his work history, political ties and views on judicial activism.
“A sound judicial philosophy should reflect recognition of the fact that the judge operates within a system of rules developed over the years by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath,” Roberts said in response to a question about judicial activism.
At the same time, he writes, “judges must be constantly aware that their role, while important, is limited.”
“They do not have a commission to solve society’s problems, as they see them, but simply to decide cases before them according to the rule of law,” Roberts stated.
His views on the subject are considered critical to gauging his position on overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision, a stance supported by conservative members on the court.
In the questionnaire, Roberts also writes that he does not recall ever being a member of the conservative Federalist Society, although he participated in events including a 1993 panel and gave a 2003 luncheon speech.
“According to recent press reports, in 1997 I was listed in brochures as a member of the Washington Lawyers Steering Committee,” Roberts wrote. “I have no recollection of serving on that committee, or being a member of the society.”
Detailing his political ties, Roberts said he spent about a week assisting Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the disputed presidential election count in 2000.
He said he went to Florida at the request of GOP lawyers, assisting an attorney who was preparing arguments for the Florida Supreme Court and at one point meeting the governor, President Bush’s younger brother, to discuss the legal issues “in a general way.”
“My recollection is that I stayed less than one week,” Roberts wrote.
Other political affiliations Roberts listed included the executive committee of the D.C. Lawyers for Bush-Quayle in 1988 and Lawyers for Bush-Cheney.