Thursday, August 04, 2005

More on John Roberts

There's an interesting story on the wires today about John Roberts' role in helping to "moot court" or coach the lawyers who argued the Romer case out of Colorado in which the US Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a Colorado constitutional amendment designed, among other things" to keep the state or any locality from adopting a statute or regulation banning discrimination based on a person's "homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation."

Hailed as a major victory for the gay rights movement, the decision in the Romer case was 6-3 with Roberts' mentor Rehnquist joining Thomas and Scalia in dissent. The dissent written by Scalia described the constitutional amendment as "a modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority to revise those mores through use of the laws."

The majority determined that the challenged amendment "classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws."

According to the news story, "the lawyer who asked for Roberts' help on the case, Walter A. Smith Jr., then head of the pro bono department at Hogan & Hartson, said Roberts didn't hesitate. "He said, 'Let's do it.' And it's illustrative of his open-mindedness, his fair-mindedness. He did a brilliant job."

Having spent time with Walter Smith in my years at Hogan & Hartson (although I didn't overlap with Roberts), I can say that he's definitely no conservative. And, his description of Roberts as open and fair-minded mirrors the assessment of another well known liberal at the firm, Jack Keeney, who just finished his term as president of the DC Bar. Jack was on TV recently saying that folks criticizing Roberts were criticizing a "caricature" of the man he knew. Jack endorsed Roberts with enthusiasm.

So, it goes back to how do you know who a person is? From personal contact and conversation over time or from what you read in their briefs, memos or, worse yet, from what their wife says or does?

I, for one, intend to put my faith in the assessments of people I respect who know John Roberts far better than I ever will.

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