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September 11, 2005
WaPo Gives Roberts A More Balanced Perspective

A funny thing happened after Bush shifted John Roberts to William Rehnquist's seat rather than Sandra Day O'Connor's after the death of the Chief Justice: the Washington Post suddenly began to treat Roberts more rationally. After early stories insinuating that Roberts was a closet racist, the Post now publishes more balanced and neutral reporting on Roberts' background. Today's Post survey of Roberts leading up to his confirmation hearings this week actually shows Roberts in a mostly positive light, as a man willing to go out of his way to connect to the nuts and bolts of the cases he argued:

"It's helpful for someone who's going to be a judge to have dealt with ordinary people," says Peter B. Edelman, a Georgetown law professor and former Clinton administration official who opposes Roberts's nomination. "Institutionally, it's better for the court to have as many people with real-life experience as possible."

Then again, no one would describe the current Supreme Court as streetwise; as Edelman pointed out, none of the liberal justices were digging ditches before their nominations, either. All the justices have been federal judges for at least 15 years (for some, including their time on the high court), and several were once law professors. And Roberts's colleagues say he did at least try to break out of the appellate bar's ivory tower. When he defended Toyota against a claim for a repetitive-motion injury, he visited a factory to get a better understanding of the work in question. When he defended Alaska against a native land claim, he flew over the Arctic Circle, boated up pristine rivers and visited native villages to get a feel for the back country.

"This kind of advocacy can be an academic exercise, but John always wanted to make sure he could explain his arguments in real-world terms," says Gregory Garre, who worked for Roberts at Hogan & Hartson and is now the firm's top appellate lawyer. "He's not the kind of guy who makes up his mind right away. He goes through cases brick by brick."

It's a lengthy piece, but by far the best news reporting I've yet read from the Post on the Roberts nomination. Michael Grunwald paints a picture not just of John Roberts as a committed, principled, and highly effective attorney at the Supreme Court bar, but of the entire bar itself. It's too bad that the Post didn't take this approach from the beginning instead of its selection of out-of-context snippets of memos in order to paint Roberts as a slavering bigot or mindless idealogue.

Beldar has much more on this piece, including a rebuttal to one particular point which his expertise addresses well.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 11, 2005 11:30 AM

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