John G. Roberts, Jr.

Reprinted from

Nominated to the United States Supreme Court, July 2005.

Throughout his 26-year career, John G. Roberts has consistently supported and promoted an anti-woman, anti-civil rights, and anti-worker agenda.

Regressive Agenda

Here's a snapshot of his regressive agenda in practice:

  • As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts argued in a brief before the Supreme Court that: "we continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled. The Court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion. . . . finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution."[1]
  • Overturning Roe v. Wade was such a primary focus of the Reagan Administration that during an oral argument in the Supreme Court a justice asked him, "Mr. Roberts, in this case, are you asking that Roe v. Wade be overruled?" He replied, "No your honor, the issue doesn't even come up." To this the justice replied, "Well that hasn't prevented the Solicitor General from taking that position in prior cases."[2]
  • As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts filed an amicus curiae brief in NOW's case against Operation Rescue and other violent blockaders, supporting Operation Rescue and individuals who violently blocked access to clinics. At the Supreme Court level, that case was called Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic (it was NOW v. Operation Rescue at the trial and appellate levels). Roberts' brief argued that the protesters' behavior in preventing access to abortion did not discriminate against women under the civil rights laws, even though only women can get pregnant. At most, he argued, Operation Rescue was discriminating against pregnant people, not pregnant women. Roberts' brief also argued that the blockades were protected speech under the First Amendment.
  • As Special Assistant to the Attorney General during the Reagan Administration, Roberts advocated for bills that would have stripped the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction over abortion, busing, and school prayer, arguing that such legislation would not "directly burden the exercise of any fundamental rights." The Justice Department dismissed Roberts' view, declaring that the bills would be unconstitutional.[3]
  • Roberts faulted the Justice Department for not taking a position in Pyler v. Doe, a case that eventually decided public schools could not turn away children of illegal immigrants. He argued that the Justice Department should have supported "the values of judicial restraint," it would have "altered the outcome of the case"[4] thereby preventing countless children from attending schools.
  • In Lee v. Weisman, Roberts argued for the disintegration of separation of church and state when he co-authored an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the government. Roberts argued that public schools should be allowed to hold religious ceremonies at high school graduations, but the Supreme Court disagreed, reaffirming the line between church and state.[5]
  • As special assistant to the attorney general during the Reagan Administration, Roberts participated in the Administrations' attack on minorities' voting rights. After the Supreme Court held, in City of Mobile v. Bolden, that the Voting Rights Act required racial minorities to prove intentional discrimination in voting laws, Congress moved to amend the Act so that a plaintiff would only have to show that a voting law had a discriminatory effect. Roberts joined the Administration's effort to block the amendment. To the Administration's chagrin, Congress eventually passed the amendment by an overwhelming majority. Even Senator Strom Thurmond, a long-time opponent to civil rights, disagreed with Roberts and voted for the amendment.
  • Roberts has no discernable position on LGBT issues, but this should not be a comfort to the LGBT community. The legal basis for Roe v. Wade is same as the basis for cases like Lawrence v. Texas – the right to privacy. Along with abortion rights, the progress made for LGBT rights could erode with Roberts on the Court.
  • Prior to his nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Roberts made several comments that revealed his ideological leanings. Regarding the Rehnquist Court, which many have characterized as the most conservative and activist Court in decades, Roberts said, "I don't know how you can call [the Rehnquist] [C]ourt conservative . . . ." He continued this rhetoric when asked specifically about the 1999-2000 Supreme Court term, a very controversial time period for the Court. Roberts viewed the decisions of that term, including decisions that heavily limited the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Violence Against Women Act, as reinforcing his view that, "we do not have a very conservative Supreme Court . . . ."
  • In his short time on the bench, Roberts has already cast himself as an opponent of environmental protection. In his dissent in Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton, a case where a large developer refused to take down a fence that was blocking the habitat of an endangered species, Roberts' position would have effectively limited the role of the federal government to address national environmental issues and he strongly hinted that he believes the Endangered Species Act is unconstitutional. Roberts' very narrow view of federal power was essentially overruled by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich, where even Justice Scalia felt it went too far.

Private Practice

While in private practice, Roberts frequently argued cases before the High Court, many of which were pro-big business, anti-government, anti-civil-rights, and anti-environment.

  • Roberts served as lead counsel for Toyota in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, in which he argued to limit the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The case involved a woman who was fired when she asked Toyota for accommodations to do her job after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. The court ruled in Roberts' client's favor, saying that while the woman's condition impaired her ability to work, it did not impair her ability to perform a major life activity, and thus was not protected by the ADA.
  • Roberts filed an amicus brief in Adarand v. Mineta in Oct. 2001, challenging federal affirmative action programs.
  • He argued against Title IX, the equal education law for women and girls, as applied to college athletic programs in NCAA v. Smith. Roberts urged the Attorney General not to support an investigation of alleged sex discrimination at the University of Richmond.
  • Roberts has been a proponent of states' rights even if it costs the safety of women and girls, as where he opposed the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In a 1999 radio interview he said, "We have gotten to the point these days where we think the only way we can show we're serious about a problem is if we pass a federal law, whether it is VAWA or anything else. The fact of the matter is: conditions are different in different states and state laws can be more relevant."[6]
  • In Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission, Roberts successfully argued that Fox was not subject to regulations that prevented media monopolies.
  • In Bragg v. West Virginia Coal Association, Roberts wrote an amicus curiae brief that supported the blasting of mountain tops in order to mine coal, an act that deposited pollutants and debris on neighboring valleys and rivers.

Roberts' Affiliations

  • Roberts was a steering committee member of the DC Chapter of the Federalist Society, an ultra-conservative organization committed to returning to a pre-Civil War era of unquestioned states' rights and rolling back legislation that has advanced women's rights, civil rights, environmental protections and health and safety standards. Federalist Society heroes and leaders include Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
  • Roberts is also connected to several staunch conservative legal organizations, including the Republican National Lawyers' Association and the Washington Legal Foundation. Moreover, he served on the Legal Advisory Council to the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, a group known to be anti-government and hostile toward environmental and worker protections.
  • Furthermore, the Roberts nomination has made conservative groups positively giddy:
    • Tony Perkins, of the conservative Family Research Council, said that President Bush "promised to nominate someone along the lines of a Scalia or a Thomas, and that is exactly what he has done."[7]
    • Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition and Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, both agreed that President Bush had fulfilled his promise to them and given the radical Right a candidate that they can fully support.
    • Radical anti-choice organizations are also praising the nomination. Operation Rescue, a violent group that prohibits women from receiving full reproductive health care, praised Bush for his nominee, saying Roberts has "strong conservative credentials with indications that he will not uphold Roe v. Wade."[8]

Employment Background

  • Bush Appointee to U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 2003 to present
  • Private practice at law firm of Hogan & Hartson from 1986-1989 and 1993-2003
  • Former U.S. Deputy Solicitor General under Kenneth Starr, 1989-1993
  • Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan, 1982-1986
  • Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith, 1981-1982
  • Clerk for Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist, 1980-1981
  • Clerk for Judge Henry J. Friendly, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, 1979-1980

[1]Brief for the Respondent at 13, Rust v. Sullivan, 500 US 173, 1991


[3] The Washington Post (July 27, 2005)

[4] The Washington Post (July 27, 2005)

[5] Source:,

[6] The Washington Post (July 19, 2005)

[7] PFAW


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