But the most pointed back-and-forth was between Judge Roberts and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who pressed the nominee on his commitment to the Voting Rights Act, which has been widely credited with enabling many black Americans to vote, especially in the South, and consequently increasing minority representation in government.
The senator recalled that, when the nominee was a Reagan administration lawyer in 1982, he wrote a memorandum embracing the administration's stance that sections of the Voting Rights Act should be enforced according to whether discrimination was intended, as opposed to whether discrimination was the effect...
Judge Roberts replied cautiously. In 1982, "I was still working for the administration, Senator," he told Mr. Kennedy.
If a voting-rights issue came before him today, "I would, of course, confront that issue as a judge and not as a staff attorney for an administration with a particular position on that issue," he said.
But Chief Justice Roberts quickly dropped that façade. In a 6-3 opinion authored by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Roberts Court in April 2009 upheld an Indiana voter identification law
described this way by Appeals Court Judge Terrance Evans:
"Let's not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic."
Then in the case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder
that same year, Roberts tipped his hand. The Chief Justice gave every indication his views from his days as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution were unchanged. "I mean, at some point," He said, "It begins to look like the idea is that this is going to go on forever." Robert also asked:
"Are Southerners more likely to discriminate than Northerners?"
If that sounds familiar, it should. Because during the oral argument for the Shelby County case decided today, Roberts asked almost the identical question
"Is it the government's submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than the citizens in the North?"
pointed out Tuesday, in 2006 President Bush and the overwhelming majority of Congress answered Roberts' question in the affirmative:
Though bipartisan majorities in the Congress and President George W. Bush agreed that this legislation was still needed -- and 81 percent of the voter discrimination complaints brought after the laws went into effect were in areas covered by the now eliminated pre-clearance jurisdictions -- Justices Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas have seriously defanged that power and opened the door to significantly more voter suppression.
To put it another way, the conservative majority on the Roberts' Court called a foul ball fair. Apparently, that's what Reagan staffer turned Chief Umpire John Roberts meant to do all along.
Comments are closed on this story.