Thursday, July 21, 2005

BCCI...Osama Bin Laden

Follow the Money
How John Kerry busted the terrorists' favorite bank.

By David Sirota and Jonathan Baskin

Two decades ago, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was a highly respected financial titan. In 1987, when its subsidiary helped finance a deal involving Texas oilman George W. Bush, the bank appeared to be a reputable institution, with attractive branch offices, a traveler's check business, and a solid reputation for financing international trade. It had high-powered allies in Washington and boasted relationships with respected figures around the world.
All that changed in early 1988, when John Kerry, then a young senator from Massachusetts, decided to probe the finances of Latin American drug cartels. Over the next three years, Kerry fought against intense opposition from vested interests at home and abroad, from senior members of his own party; and from the Reagan and Bush administrations, none of whom were eager to see him succeed.

By the end, Kerry had helped dismantle a massive criminal enterprise and exposed the infrastructure of BCCI and its affiliated institutions, a web that law enforcement officials today acknowledge would become a model for international terrorist financing. As Kerry's investigation revealed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, BCCI was interested in more than just enriching its clients--it had a fundamentally anti-Western mission. Among the stated goals of its Pakistani founder were to "fight the evil influence of the West," and finance Muslim terrorist organizations. In retrospect, Kerry's investigation had uncovered an institution at the fulcrum of America's first great post-Cold War security challenge.

More than a decade later, Kerry is his party's nominee for president, and terrorist financing is anything but a back-burner issue. The Bush campaign has settled on a new strategy for attacking Kerry: Portray him as a do-nothing senator who's weak on fighting terrorism. "After 19 years in the Senate, he's had thousands of votes, but few signature achievements," President Bush charged recently at a campaign rally in Pittsburgh; spin that's been echoed by Bush's surrogates, conservative pundits, and mainstream reporters alike, and by a steady barrage of campaign ads suggesting that the one thing Kerry did do in Congress was prove he knew nothing about terrorism. Ridiculing the senator for not mentioning al Qaeda in his 1997 book on terrorism, one ad asks: "How can John Kerry win a war [on terror] if he doesn't know the enemy?"

If that line of attack has been effective, it's partly because Kerry does not have a record like the chamber's dealmakers such as Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) or Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Though Kerry has been a key backer of bills on housing reform, immigration, and the environment, there are indeed few pieces of landmark legislation that owe their passage to Kerry.

But legislation is only one facet of a senator's record. As the BCCI investigation shows, Kerry developed a very different record of accomplishment--one often as vital, if not more so, than passage of bills. Kerry's probe didn't create any popular new governmental programs, reform the tax code, or eliminate bureaucratic waste and fraud. Instead, he shrewdly used the Senate's oversight powers to address the threat of terrorism well before it was in vogue, and dismantled a key terrorist weapon. In the process, observers saw a senator with tremendous fortitude, and a willingness to put the public good ahead of his own career. Those qualities might be hard to communicate to voters via one-line sound bites, but they would surely aid Kerry as president in his attempts to battle the threat of terrorism.

From drug lords to lobbyists

Despite having helmed the initial probe which led to the Iran-Contra investigation, Kerry was left off the elite Iran-Contra committee in 1987. As a consolation prize, the Democratic leadership in Congress made Kerry the chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations and told him to dig into the Contra-drug connection. Kerry turned to BCCI early in the second year of the probe when his investigators learned that Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was laundering drug profits through the bank on behalf of the Medellin cartel.

By March 1988, Kerry's subcommittee had obtained permission from the Foreign Relations Committee to seek subpoenas for both BCCI and individuals at the bank involved in handling Noriega's assets, as well as those handling the accounts of others in Panama and Colombia. Very quickly, though, Kerry faced a roadblock. Citing concerns that the senator's requests would interfere with an ongoing sting operation in Tampa, the Justice Department delayed the subpoenas until 1988, at which point the subcommittee's mandate was running out.

BCCI, meanwhile, had its own connections. Prominent figures with ties to the bank included former president Jimmy Carter's budget director, Bert Lance, and a bevy of powerful Washington lobbyists with close ties to President George H.W. Bush, a web of influence that may have helped the bank evade previous investigations. In 1985 and 1986, for instance, the Reagan administration launched no investigation even after the CIA had sent reports to the Treasury, Commerce, and State Departments bluntly describing the bank's role in drug-money laundering and other illegal activities.

In the spring of 1989, Kerry hit another obstacle. Foreign Relations Committee chairman Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), under pressure from both parties, formally asked Kerry to end his probe. Worried the information he had collected would languish, Kerry quickly dispatched investigator Jack Blum to present the information his committee had found about BCCI's money-laundering operations to the Justice Department. But according to Blum, the Justice Department failed to follow up.

The young senator from Massachusetts, thus, faced a difficult choice. Kerry could play ball with the establishment and back away from BCCI, or he could stay focused on the public interest and gamble his political reputation by pushing forward.

BCCI and the bluebloods

Kerry opted in 1989 to take the same information that had been coldly received at the Justice Department and bring it to New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who agreed to begin a criminal investigation of BCCI, based on Kerry's leads. Kerry also continued to keep up the public pressure. In 1990, when the Bush administration gave the bank a minor slap on the wrist for its money laundering practices, Kerry went on national television to slam the decision. "We send drug people to jail for the rest of their life," he said, "and these guys who are bankers in the corporate world seem to just walk away, and it's business as usual…When banks engage knowingly in the laundering of money, they should be shut down. It's that simple, it really is."

He would soon have a chance to turn his declarations into action. In early 1991, the Justice Department concluded its Tampa probe with a plea deal allowing BCCI officials to stay out of court. At the same time, news reports indicated that Washington elder statesman Clark Clifford might be indicted for defrauding bank regulators and helping BCCI maintain a shell in the United States.

Kerry pounced, demanding (and winning) authorization from the Foreign Relations Committee to open a broad investigation into the bank in May 1991. Almost immediately, the senator faced a new round of pressure to relent. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Democratic doyenne Pamela Harriman personally called Kerry to object, as did his fellow senators. "What are you doing to my friend Clark Clifford?," staffers recalled them asking, according to The Washington Post. BCCI itself hired an army of lawyers, PR specialists, and lobbyists, including former members of Congress, to thwart the investigation.

But Kerry refused to back off, and his hearings began to expose the ways in which international terrorism was financed. As Kerry's subcommittee discovered, BCCI catered to many of the most notorious tyrants and thugs of the late 20th century, including Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the heads of the Medellin cocaine cartel, and Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist. According to the CIA, it also did business with those who went on to lead al Qaeda.

And BCCI went beyond merely offering financial assistance to dictators and terrorists: According to Time, the operation itself was an elaborate fraud, replete with a "global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad."

By July 1991, Kerry's work paid off. That month, British and U.S. regulators finally responded to the evidence provided by Kerry, Morgenthau, and a concurrent investigation by the Federal Reserve. BCCI was shut down in seven countries, restricted in dozens more, and served indictments for grand larceny, bribery, and money laundering. The actions effectively put it out of business what Morgenthau called, "one of the biggest criminal enterprises in world history."

Bin Laden's bankers

Kerry's record in the BCCI affair, of course, contrasts sharply with Bush's. The current president's career as an oilman was always marked by the kind of insider cronyism that Kerry resisted. Even more startling, as a director of Texas-based Harken Energy, Bush himself did business with BCCI-connected institutions almost at the same time Kerry was fighting the bank. As The Wall Street Journal reported in 1991, there was a "mosaic of BCCI connections surrounding [Harken] since George W. Bush came on board." In 1987, Bush secured a critical $25 million-loan from a bank the Kerry Commission would later reveal to be a BCCI joint venture. Certainly, Bush did not suspect BCCI had such questionable connections at the time. But still, the president's history suggests his attacks on Kerry's national-security credentials come from a position of little authority.

As the presidential campaign enters its final stretch, Kerry's BCCI experience is important for two reasons. First, it reveals Kerry's foresight in fighting terrorism that is critical for any president in this age of asymmetrical threats. As The Washington Post noted, "years before money laundering became a centerpiece of antiterrorist efforts...Kerry crusaded for controls on global money laundering in the name of national security."

Make no mistake about it, BCCI would have been a player. A decade after Kerry helped shut the bank down, the CIA discovered Osama bin Laden was among those with accounts at the bank. A French intelligence report obtained by The Washington Post in 2002 identified dozens of companies and individuals who were involved with BCCI and were found to be dealing with bin Laden after the bank collapsed, and that the financial network operated by bin Laden today "is similar to the network put in place in the 1980s by BCCI." As one senior U.S. investigator said in 2002, "BCCI was the mother and father of terrorist financing operations."

Second, the BCCI affair showed Kerry to be a politician driven by a sense of mission, rather than expediency--even when it meant ruffling feathers. Perhaps Sen. Hank Brown, the ranking Republican on Kerry's subcommittee, put it best. "John Kerry was willing to spearhead this difficult investigation," Brown said. "Because many important members of his own party were involved in this scandal, it was a distasteful subject for other committee and subcommittee chairmen to investigate. They did not. John Kerry did."

David Sirota and Jonathan Baskin work for the American Progress Action Fund, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.

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Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.

It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa's suspected link to Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me.

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

After consulting with the State Department's African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.

In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70's and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90's. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there's the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)

Before I left Niger, I briefed the ambassador on my findings, which were consistent with her own. I also shared my conclusions with members of her staff. In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the C.I.A. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.

Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.

I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. (I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion.) In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.

Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn't know that in December, a month before the president's address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.

Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.

The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It's worth remembering that in his March "Meet the Press" appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.") At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.

Joseph C. Wilson 4th, United States ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.

Republicans CounterAttacks Proposed on Roberts...

July 21, 2005
Nominee Gave Quiet Advice on Recount
MIAMI, July 20 - John G. Roberts advised Gov. Jeb Bush during Florida's presidential recount in 2000, even traveling to Tallahassee from Washington to help him navigate those frenzied 36 days.

But neither Governor Bush nor other Republicans involved in the recount would say on Wednesday just what advice Judge Roberts, then a lawyer at Hogan & Hartson in Washington, shared.

Governor Bush at first kept a low profile in Florida's election dispute, recusing himself from the board responsible for certifying the vote. But he later emerged as a significant player, announcing that he would support special legislation intended to award Florida's electoral votes to his brother George W. Bush.

Judge Roberts, nominated by President Bush on Tuesday to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, provided such quiet counsel that his name did not register in news media accounts during the recount. On Wednesday, Governor Bush's press secretary said that Judge Roberts "came to Florida in 2000 at his own expense and met with Governor Bush to share what he believed the governor's responsibilities were under federal law after a presidential election and a presidential election under dispute."

The press secretary, Jacob DiPietre, said someone - "not sure who" - had recommended that Governor Bush consult with Judge Roberts.

"Judge Roberts was one of several experts who came to Florida to share their ideas," Mr. DiPietre said in a statement. "The governor appreciated his willingness to serve and valued his counsel."

Florida's secretary of state at the time, Katherine Harris, was in charge of certifying the state's vote tally. Ms. Harris certified that George Bush had carried Florida, but her ruling was challenged, and during the legal battle the Legislature argued that it had the right to appoint electors when election results were in dispute. One point of concern for Republicans was whether it would hurt Governor Bush's own career to play a direct role, like signing legislation that would essentially hand his brother the White House.

The United States Supreme Court made the question moot by voting to end the recount.

Representative Tom Feeney, a Republican who was the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives during the recount, said on Wednesday that he was not aware of Judge Roberts's involvement.

"If I met him during those 36 days, I don't recall," Mr. Feeney said. "I certainly never relied on his advice."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

John Roberts has enjoyed a distinguished career in government service, private practice and, most recently, as a federal judge. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, of Harvard College and also Harvard Law School (magna cum laude). After law school, hwe clerked for Judge Henry Friendly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roberts has had a distinguished career as a public servant. He served in several positions in the Reagan administration, including Associate White House Counsel. He also served, from 1989-93, as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General, the government's second highest ranking lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court.

After leaving government, Roberts became known as one of the top Supreme Court advocates in the country as a partner at Hogan & Hartson in D.C. In his government and private career, he has argued 39 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and has been described in the media as "one of [the Supreme Court's] finest practitioners," (Mauro, American Lawyer, Sept. 1, 2004), "one of the top appellate lawyers of his generation," (Groner, Legal Times, Feb. 3, 2003), and "viewed by many as the best Supreme Court advocate in private law firm practice," (Legal Times, Oct. 30, 2000).

To the extent his record as an advocate can tell anything about Roberts, his arguments often speak to judicial restraint. He co-authored the government's successful brief in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, which re-invigorated the doctrine of standing to sue in Article III Courts. At the same time, he has represented criminal defendants, environmental interests, and the State of Hawaii in a dispute over legislation favoring Native Hawaiians as a group.

Since his confirmation to the DC Circuit, Judge Roberts has authored about 40 opinions, but only three of his opinions have drawn any dissent. Two of those cases involved rather arcane issues of statutory interpretation (e.g., availability of attorneys' fees and interpretation of the False Claims Act), and in one case, Roberts (joined by D.H. Ginsburg) was criticized by Judge Henderson for being too lenient on a sentencing issue. Similarly, though he has sat on numerous other three-judge or en banc panels, he has written dissenting opinions in only two cases.

Critics of Roberts' nominations will seek to isolate particular positions espoused by advocate Roberts or adopted by Judge Roberts and argue that those positions are opposed to various political interest groups. Most significantly, he co-authored a brief for the George H.W. Bush Administration in Rust v. Sullivan that sought to overturn Roe v. Wade. That brief, however, restated a position that had previously been taken by the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration before it. The brief's discussion of Roe took up only a few sentences in the brief and says nothing about the author's (or co-author's) personal views

Similarly, critics may point to a dissent from denial of en banc rehearing he authored in the Rancho Viejo case, where Roberts cited recent Commerce Clause decisions in suggesting that the federal government might not have the power to regulate a non-migratory local species of toad, as evidence of an anti-environmental record. Roberts' opinion, however, simply followed recent decisions by the Supreme Court in Morrison and Lopez. Any anti-environmental rhetoric is also belied by Roberts successful representation, while in private practice, of environmentalists fighting development around Lake Tahoe in Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Thus, his environmental record is hardly well-defined.

The battle is likely to occur over Robert's position in Roe and the Democrats are likely to request all memoranda that Roberts wrote while he was in government service.

Judge John G. Roberts
Circuit Judge, D.C. Circuit
3832 E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001-2866


Biographical Information

John Glover Roberts, Jr.

Born: January 27, 1955, Buffalo, New York

Married to Jane Marie Sullivan, July 27, 1996. Jane Sullivan Roberts is currently a partner at Shaw Pittman in Washington, D.C.

Two children, both adopted

Religion: Catholic


Harvard College, A.B., summa cum laude, 1976;

Harvard Law School, J.D., magna cum laude, 1979.


Reported as "excellent" in March 2001 (Judge Roberts turned 50 years old in January 2005).


Roberts' financial statement published during his confirmation hearing indicated a net worth of $3,782,275. The only liability listed is the mortgage on his home, $270,272. Assets are cash, securities, and real estate.


Clerkships: Law Clerk, Hon. Henry Friendly, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 1979-1980; Law Clerk, Associate Justice William Rehnquist, Supreme Court of the United States, 1980-1981.

Private Practice: Hogan & Hartson, Washington, D.C., 1986-1989, 1993-2003.

Government Positions: Special Assistant to the Attorney General William French Smith, United States Department of Justice, 1981-1982; Associate Counsel to the President, White House Counsel's Office, 1982-1986; Principal Deputy Solicitor General, United States Department of Justice, 1989-1993; United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, 2003-present (confirmed May 8, 2003; sworn in June 2, 2003).

Professional Associations: District of Columbia Bar; American Law Institute; American Academy of Appellate Lawyers; Edward Coke Appellate Inn of Court; Supreme Court Historical Society.

Honors. Named to Top Ten Civil Litigators by National Law Journal in 1999. Described in the media as "one of [the Supreme Court's] finest practitioners," (Mauro, American Lawyer, Sept. 1, 2004), "one of the top appellate lawyers of his generation," (Groner, Legal Times, Feb. 3, 2003), "viewed by many as the best Supreme Court advocate in private law firm practice," (Legal Times, Oct. 30, 2000).

Supreme Court Experience. Has argued 39 cases to the Supreme Court. Argued more cases than any other private practitioner during 10 years leading up to appointment to D.C. Circuit.


The most pertinent aspects of Judge Roberts' record essentially fit into three categories: (1) service in the Office of Solicitor General; (2) private practice at Hogan & Hartson; and (3) service as a Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The most notable materials concerning Roberts' service in the Office of Solicitor General were: (1) the government's brief in the Rust v. Sullivan abortion case (see below), co-written by Roberts, which argued not only that regulations prohibiting Title X funding recipients from counseling patients on abortion did not violate Title X or the First or Fifth Amendments, but also restated the Bush Administration's position that that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and (2) the government's briefs in Lujan (see below), upon which Robert's was attacked during his circuit court confirmation hearings.

While in private practice at Hogan & Hartson, Roberts, for the most part, did not handle many highly politically sensitive cases. While Roberts tended to represent corporate clients, he often ... However, it is during this period of his career that Roberts earned the respect of people on both sides of the aisle. Roberts also authored articles which necessarily contain some editorializing and his personal opinions.

During his brief tenure on the D.C. Circuit, Roberts' written opinions evidence a record of judicial restraint. Roberts' two dissents from the denials of en banc review have attracted more attention than any of his written opinions. Roberts dissented from denial of en banc review in the Rancho Viejo case -- a case upholding the Department of the Interior's suppression of real estate development to protect an endangered species -- the southwestern arroyo toad. Roberts' dissent invoked recent changes in the Supreme Court's Commerce Clause jurisprudence recognizing that the federal government's legislative authority is not unlimited. He questioned whether, as a result of that jurisprudence, the federal government had any interest in regulating the movement of a non-migratory, purely local species of frog.

Roberts also dissented from the denial of en banc review in the Administration's Energy Task Force case, which provoked claims that Roberts unduly supported Administration secrecy. His position in that case was eventually affirmed by the Supreme Court on a 7-2 vote and subsequently by the en banc D.C. Circuit on remand by an 8-0 vote.


Roberts' D.C. Circuit confirmation hearings will likely provide the roadmap for opponents' attack strategies. The criticisms brought by liberal groups and echoed in the Senate hearings, along with the best responses to those criticisms, updated to include references to Roberts' recent D.C. Circuit Court opinions where relevant, are summarized below.

During his relatively short tenure on the D.C. Circuit, Roberts' judicial opinions, not surprisingly, concern principally technical administrative law issues and have not yet touched on many hot-button social or political issues. Consequently, his decisions to date are not particularly revealing. They nonetheless appear consistent with his reputation as a principled conservative jurist who favors judicial restraint and respects the separation of powers embodied in the Constitution, as someone who is impartial in his application of the law, and as one who exercises appropriate judicial temperament, rarely, if ever, resorting to strident or inflammatory rhetoric or argument. It is a strong record that speaks of stellar legal qualifications and respect for the limited role of the courts. It leaves a relatively small target for opponents, but also leaves some room for doubt as to Roberts position on many issues.


Attack: Roberts is pro-life.

Opponents will undoubtedly argue that Roberts is hostile to abortion rights based on a pair of briefs on which Roberts appeared while Deputy SG (a) Rust v. Sullivan and Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263 (1993). Roberts' opponents have argued that Roberts unnecessarily called for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in Rust, a case challenging federal regulations which prohibited certain receipients of federal funds from counseling patients on abortion. Critics argue that the case could have been argued solely on the basis of statutory construction of the provisions at issue. Critics also point to Roberts' co-authoring the government's amicus brief in Bray, a private suit brought against Operation Rescue, which argued that Operation Rescue was not engaged in a conspiracy to deprive women of equal protection rights. The unspoken undercurrent of these charges, and the likely basis for a whispering campaign against Roberts, is that he is a practicing Catholic and therefore predisposed to advancing the social policies of the Catholic Church through judicial opinions.


In both cases, Roberts, as one of several attorneys on the brief for the government, was simply arguing the position of the United States, his client.

The Rust argument, which has been a focal point of criticism of Roberts by PFAW and other abortion interest groups, is easily rebutted. The SG's office was simply restating the position that the Reagan and Bush Administrations had already taken in several other cases. Indeed, while the focus of the government's Rust argument was statutory, the reference to Roe in the Rust brief was minimal: "Petitioners argue that the Secretary's regulations impermissibly burden the qualified right discerned in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), to choose to have an abortion ... We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled. As more fully explained in our briefs, filed as amicus curiae, in Hodgson v. Minnesota, 110 S. Ct. 2926 (1990); Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 109 S. Ct. 3040 (1989); Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747 (1986); and City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416 (1983), the Court's conclusions in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion and that government has no compelling interest in protecting prenatal human life throughout pregnancy find no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution." Judge Roberts has not decided any cases involving abortion, and it would be irresponsible to speculate on how he might rule in such a case.

At bottom, critics who attack Roberts' unstated views on abortion are simply attempting to impose a religious litmus test on nominees, i.e., practicing religious (especially Christians) need not apply. This is the same scurrilous attack on several of the President's lower court nominees, such as Bill Pryor, and has no place in modern politics.

Attack from People for the American Way: Dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc in Rancho Viejo v. Norton.

The People for the American Way have sought to brand Roberts as both a right-wing extremist and anti-environmentalist as a result of his dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc in Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton, 334 F.3d 1158 (D.C. Cir. 2003). In Rancho Viejo, a real estate development company challenged the Department of Interior's application of the Endangered Species Act to stop a project that "was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the arroyo southwestern toad." The case principally involved an attack on Congress' power to regulate what appeared to be completely intra-state activity. The left's attack focuses on how Roberts' view of Commerce Clause jurisprudence would have prevented the arroyo southwestern toad's protection from these particular developers. (Judge David B. Sentelle also authored a separate dissent to the denial of en banc review).

Response: Mission Viejo involved a Fish and Wildlife Service order to a developer to move a fence from its own property in order to accommodate the movement of southwest arroyo toads, a non-migratory species. Roberts' dissent, like Judge David Sentelle's separate dissent, questioned whether, in light of recent Supreme Court decisions scaling back what was once viewed as Congress' unlimited power over interstate commerce, the federal government really had any authority to regulate such non-commercial activities as the movement of a toad. His position recognized the common sense view that the government should not regulate every aspect of every transaction in commerce that does not have an interstate component, arguing that it made little sense to conclude that "regulating the taking of a hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California constitutes regulating "Commerce ... among the several States." While the position did not prevail, it was reasonable and well within the mainstream of conservative legal thought, given recent trends in Supreme Court decisions (Lopez and Morrison).

Roberts' dissent, , suggests that the circuit should attempt to resolve what appeared to be a intra-circuit split given the opinions in Rancho Viejo and National Assoc. of Home Builders v. Babbitt, 130 F.3d 1041 (D.C. Cir. 1997), and an intra-circuit split with a Fifth Circuit case (See GDF Realty Inv., Ltd. v. Norton, 326 F.3d 622, 634-35 (5th Cir.2003)) that followed the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Morrison and United States v. Lopez, two major Commerce Clause decisions that substantially curtailed the federal government's authority. The decision should not be portrayed as anti-environment, but one that sought to reconcile seemingly conflicting circuit law in light of subsequent direction from the Supreme Court.

Attack: Roberts is anti-environment.

Opponents will again state that Roberts' successful argument on behalf of the government in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 112 S. Ct. 2130 (1992), indicates a callous disregard for the environment. They will cite as support his recent decision, writing for a unanimous panel, which included Judges Henderson and, significantly, Tatel, in Sierra Club v. EPA, 353 F.3d 976 (D.C. Cir. 2004), holding that the EPA's actions in using particulate matter as a substitute for hazardous air pollutants in regulating emissions from copper smelters were reasonable, despite being arguably different than regulations applied to a different industry.

Response: Characterization of a ruling regarding the jurisdiction of Courts as anti-environment or pro-environment is irresponsible and misrepresents the issues before the Court. The government's position in Lujan demonstrated a healthy respect for the proper division of power between the Courts and Congress, and in adopting that position, the Court helped curtail judicial overreaching in cases better left to the political process. The standing doctrine advocated by the Government in Lujan has kept the Court out of numerous disputes where a party that has suffered no injury seeks to use the Courts to make a political point. Roberts' consistent refrain regarding Lujan has been that, far from being the wholesale revision to the law its opponents claim, it upheld precedential standing doctrines by requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate an injury-in-fact that was not apparent in the record before the Court.

Judge Roberts' decision for the Court in Sierra Club v. EPA is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it was joined by Judge David Tatel, a Clinton appointee and one of the more liberal jurists on the D.C. Circuit. Second, it merely deferred to the Executive Branches interpretation of federal law, indicating a proper respect for the limited role of the Courts in our government.

In any event, in private practice Roberts successfully represented environmentalists fighting development around Lake Tahoe in Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, in which the Court adopted Roberts' position against those of the developers and property owners, over the dissent of Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas. As in Lujan, Tahoe-Sierra demonstrates nothing more than Robert's excellent advocacy on behalf of his clients, and cannot be read to suggest he is either pro-environmentalist or anti-property rights.

Attack: Roberts is hostile to civil rights and affirmative actions.

During his confirmation to the D.C. Circuit, left-wing activist groups accused Roberts of being hostile to civil rights and affirmative action, citing the following cases in which Roberts co-authored briefs while in the Solicitor General's office: (a) Oklahoma City Public Schools v. Dowell, 498 U.S. 237 (1991) (this brief, according to the Alliance for Justice, "sought to weaken the standard and limit the timeline for court-enforced desegregation decrees in the nation's schools"), and (b) Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992) (according to the Alliance for Justice, this brief successfully argued "to lower the bar for the proof that school systems that had previously engaged in de jure discrimination had to show in order to obtain the court's revocation of a desegregation decree."). Opponents may also cite: (a) Roberts' opinion (for a unanimous panel of Roberts, Henderson and, again, Tatel) in Sioux Valley Rural Television, Inc. v. FCC, 349 F.3d 667 (D.C. Cir. 2003), in which the court rejected petitioners' claim that the FCC's new bidding rules revoking minority and women-owned business credits while at the same time extending credits for all successful small businesses did not have a discriminatory intent and were not arbitrary and capricious when applied retroactively; (b) Roberts' opinion (panel included Henderson and Williams) in Hedgepeth v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 2004 WL 2381320 (Oct. 26, 2004), in which he held that a 12 year old girl's arrest for eating a french fry in a rail transit station did not violate her civil rights under the Equal Protection Clause or the Fourth Amendment; and (c) Roberts' decision (for a unanimous panel including Roberts, Randolph, and Williams) in Stewart v. Evans, 351 F.3d 1239 (D.C. Cir. 2003), holding that a female employee did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to certain personal notes she had taken regarding a male co-worker's inappropriate behavior because she turned them over to a FOIA representative with the understanding that they might be further disclosed, even though the FOIA rep agreed not to reveal them within the Department and maintained them in a locked safe.

Response: Roberts' record as a Supreme Court advocate cannot be easily characterized as either pro- or anti-civil rights. As a private practitioner, he represented the Governor of Hawaii in defending the State's preferential treatment of Native Hawaiians in Rice v. Cayetano. He co-authored government's brief in U.S. v. Mabus, 1991 WL 527603, arguing that Mississippi continued to propagate a "dual system" of racially segregated public universities in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His record as an advocate is quite balanced in this area, and simply reflects the fact that he represented a wide array of clients with a broad set of interests.

His judicial decisions do not reflect any hostility to civil rights, but merely the reality that not every individual who seeks relief in court is entitled to it. Hedgepeth, for instance, upheld the decision of a liberal Clinton-appointed district court judge, Judge Emmet Sullivan, and reflects an appropriate deference to the legislature, even when a court might find a law otherwise distasteful. The case is replete with references to the fact that the judges thought the enforcement of the zero-tolerance rule heavy-handed and wrong, but that they were obliged not to impose their personal preference on an otherwise valid law. It was decided squarely on the basis of existing precedent finding that age-based laws are subject only to rational basis review, and deference to the officers making the arrest where the underlying policy did not permit discretion.

Attack: Roberts is hostile to the rights of criminal defendants.

In his confirmation hearings, opponents argued that Roberts' participation on behalf on the government in two amicus briefs indicates a desire to limit the rights of criminal defendants. See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992) (amicus brief arguing that the Ninth Circuit test to permit a court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint only if it could take judicial notice that the facts alleged did not occur was too stringent); Burns v. U.S., 501 U.S. 129 (1991) (amicus brief arguing that no advance notice to defendant was required for an upward departure from sentencing guidelines). In further support of this attack, opponents might note two D.C. Circuit decisions authored by Roberts for a unanimous panel: (a) U.S. v. Holmes, 385 F.3d 786 (D.C. Cir. 2004), holding that the search of a passenger compartment of defendant's car did not exceed the scope of search incident to his arrest for assaulting an officer; and (b) U.S. v. Tucker, 2004 WL 2381324 (D.C. Cir., Oct. 26, 2004), holding that the lower court's substantial downward departure from sentencing guidelines was not justified for the reason stated by the lower court, namely, that the sentencing guidelines are unjust. (Tucker, of course, involved a tirade by Judge Jackson who indicated that because he thought the guidelines-mandated sentence too harsh, he would grant a downward departure without making the necessary findings and admittedly invite appellate reversal. The D.C. Circuit scolded Jackson, and reversed and remanded to give the district court an opportunity to make appropriate factual findings for the departure.)

Response: Again, Roberts' record on criminal rights is much more balanced than his critics suggest. (a) Roberts wrote for a unanimous panel (Randolph, Williams, Roberts) in Warren v. District of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36 (D.C. Cir. 2004), holding that a pro se prisoner had stated a § 1983 claim for relief, based in large part on the fact that "pro se prisoner complaints should be `liberally construed'"; (b) Roberts represented many criminal defendants on a pro bono basis while in private practice, including his pro bono representation of the defendant in U.S. v. Halper, 490 U.S. 435 (1989), in which he argued successfully that the Double Jeopardy Clause barred imposition of civil penalties under federal law against an individual who had already been convicted and punished under federal criminal law for the same conduct.

Attack: Roberts is hostile to the First Amendment's Establishment and Freedom of Speech Clauses.

Opponents have argued that Roberts supports an expanded role of religion in schools, citing two briefs he co-authored while with the Solicitor General's office: Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992) (arguing that public high schools should be allowed to conduct religious ceremonies as part of a graduation program); Mergens v. Westside Community School District, 496 U.S. 226 (1990) (arguing that barring a religious group from meeting on school grounds violates the Equal Access Act, while granting access does not violate the Establishment Clause). In addition, opponents have cited Roberts' brief in U.S. v. Eichman, U.S. v. Haggerty, 496 U.S. 310 (1990), arguing that the 1989 Flag Act, which prohibited burning the U.S. flag, did not violate the First Amendment. The Court subsequently held 5-4 that the Flag Act was unconstitutional.

Response: Again, Roberts' briefs in the SG's office should not be used against him as he is taking his client's position. His position in the flag burning case, for instance, merely involved the defense of a federal statute, a role that the Justice Department is obligated to undertake so long as there is a good faith defense available. The positions espoused in these cases are well within the mainstream of legal thought.

Attack: Roberts is an "extremist" in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.

This is likely to be the most pervasive attack against Roberts, along with his religion, and is the underlying political subtext for all issue-based attacks (see, e.g., Statement of Senator Edward Kennedy on Confirmation of John G. Roberts, Wednesday, April 30, 2003). Support for this allegation will be found in every decision or writing that can reasonably be construed as restraintist or strict constructionist in flavor, or that has Roberts agreeing with Scalia or Thomas, regardless of the reasoning.

Response: See discussion of Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency above, where the Court adopted Roberts' client's position against the rights of property owners and over the dissent by Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas. In addition, many of Roberts' briefs written while in private practice appear to defend federal preemption (see, e.g., State of California et al. v. Dillingham Construction, Inc. et al., 1996 WL 335322 (arguing in favor of federal ERISA preemption); Medtronic Inc. v. Lora Lohr and Michael Lohr, 1996 WL 109618 (arguing in favor of broad federal preemption of states' product liability laws). But see Jefferson v. City of Tarrant, Alabama, 1997 WL 401190 (arguing against federal common law replacing state law on remedies for deceased or survivors in wrongful death cases).

Attack: Roberts Consistently Sides with Corporations over Unions and Workers' Rights.

Opponents may focus on Roberts' private practice client base, which had him representing many corporations in various matters, often against labor unions.

Response: Roberts has represented all manner of clients, including environmental groups (see Tahoe-Sierra case cited above), criminal defendants (on a pro bono basis), and the government. His representation of corporations in union disputes is not unusual for a seasoned appellate advocate. Moreover, he has authored briefs that sought to expand the rights of employees. In EEOC v. Arabian American Oil Co., 1990 WL 511330 (Nov. 15, 1990), Roberts' brief for the government argued the Title VII prohibits employment discrimination outside the United States by an American corporation against an American citizen working abroad.

Attack: Roberts supports the Bush Administration's unparalleled secrecy.

Roberts voted in favor of the D.C. Circuit's en banc review of the decision in Sierra Club and Judicial Watch v. Cheney - the National Energy Policy Development Group case where interest groups sought to obtain communications and internal deliberations of the Vice President's group that was constituted to advise the President on national energy policy. En banc review was denied and Sentelle, Randolph, and Roberts submitted a dissent to the denial. The en banc vote could also be used by interest groups to state that Roberts' is willing to protect the Administration's "secret' communications with energy companies over the public's "right to know" and environmental interests. (In addition, this case generated controversy regarding Justice Scalia's now-infamous hunting trip with the Vice President).

Response: In a 7-2 decision authored by Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court granted review and vacated the district court's decision giving the interests groups access to the Vice President's records. The case was remanded for further proceedings in the D.C. Circuit, which affirmed the Vice President's position and dismissed the case by an 8-0 vote. Therefore, Roberts' view in his en banc dissent was ultimately vindicated.


In general, Roberts' written opinions reflect a pattern of judicial restraint and deference to agencies. The panel decisions in which Roberts participated but did not write the opinion were relatively non-controversial. The following cases are highlighted because they touch on issues of political interest:

Criminal Issues

United States v. Stanfield, 360 F.3d 1346 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Roberts wrote for a unanimous panel (including Edwards and Garland), upholding various procedural rulings made by the district court in a criminal case. Specifically, the court held that (a) allowing counsel only nine minutes to review several inches worth of Jencks Act material was not an abuse of discretion; (b) limiting defendant's cross of the probation officer to 20 minutes (because that was the length of time on direct) did not violate the right to confront witness; and (c) certain hearsay statements were admissible because, although clearly hearsay, they were sufficiently reliable.

United States v. Holmes, 385 F.3d 786 (Oct. 19, 2004). Roberts held for a unanimous panel that the search of a passenger compartment of defendant's car did not exceed scope of search incident to his arrest for assaulting an officer during the traffic stop, and affirmed the Judge Kennedy's decision below denying defendant's motion to suppress.

United States v. Tucker, 2004 WL 2381324 (Oct. 26, 2004). Roberts, writing for a unanimous panel, held that the lower court's substantial downward departure from sentencing guidelines was not warranted on the basis provided by the lower court--that the sentencing guidelines were unjust--and vacated the sentencing decision and remanded the case. The court's position refused to adopt the results-oriented decision by judge Jackson in light of clear Supreme Court authority requiring specific findings for a downward departure.

United States v. Thomas, 361 F.3d 653 (D.C. Cir. 2004). A unanimous panel (Ginsburg, Garland, Roberts) evaluated two issues regarding the Sentencing Guidelines. The Court held that: (a) escape constitutes a "crime of violence" under the Guidelines; and (b) it was "plain error" for the district court to rely on a defendant's arrest record in denying downward departures. (NOT WRITING)

Civil Issues

(1) Administrative Law

Sierra Club v. Environmental Protection Agency, 353 F.3d 976 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Roberts wrote for a unanimous panel (including Henderson and Tatel) denying the Sierra Club's petition for review of EPA's regulations concerning certain pollutants released in the process of smelting copper. The opinion is fairly technical, but, in short, the Court held that EPA's actions were "reasonable," notwithstanding the fact that the regulations were arguably different (and less stringent) than those applied to a different industry.

Non-deferral cases. Roberts wrote for the panel in two agency cases in which the Court granted petitions for review on the ground that the agency had failed adequately to explain why its decision was consistent with its own precedent. See Lemoyne-Owen College v. NLRB, 357 F.3d 55 (D.C. Cir. 2004) and Ramaprakash v. Federal Aviation Administration, 346 F.3d 1121 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

Independent Equipment Dealers Association v. EPA, 372 F.3d 420 (June 25, 2004). Roberts wrote for a unanimous panel that the EPA had not engaged in any reviewable action or create new policy when it sent a letter interpreting emissions regulations for nonroad engines. Although opponents could potentially use the decision to demonstrate that Roberts is willing to bow to the administration's wishes on environmental policy, the court appropriately did not frame the issue in terms of defending a new policy, but rather held that the EPA was merely reiterating long-standing policy and had engaged in reviewable final agency action.

National Council of Resistance of Iran v. Department of State, 373 F.3d 152 (July 9, 2004). Roberts, writing for a unanimous panel, held that an organization's designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) based on determination that it was an alias of another organization designated as an FTO, had substantial support in the record and was consistent with the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

Williams Gas Processing - Gulf Coast Company, L.P. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 373 F.3d 1335 (July 13, 2004). Roberts wrote for a unanimous panel that a decision of FERC regarding gas gathering activities of pipeline company was arbitrary and capricious. Although the decision could be used to show that Roberts supports oil and gas companies over environmental interests, it actually stands for nothing more than the proposition that agencies should be consistent in their application of regulations and not arbitrary in deciding cases. See, e.g., Ramaprakash v. Federal Aviation Administration, 346 F.3d 1121 (Oct. 21, 2003) (Roberts finding that National Transportation Safety Board had failed to explain adequately its departures from its own established precedent in no fewer than three respects); Duchek v. National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration, 364 F.3d 311 (April 20, 2004) (Roberts holding that FAA could not revoke an airman's license based on his failure to respond to notice because a notice from a designated representative was not the equivalent of "direction by the employer"); but see Midwest ISO Transmission Owners v. FERC, 373 F.3d 1361 (July 16, 2004) (Roberts holding for unanimous panel that FERC's orders applying tariff were not arbitrary and capricious). Overall, these cases taken together demonstrate that Roberts expects administrative agencies to apply their own procedures and policies in a fair, reasonable, and consistent manner - a position consistent with a philosophy of judicial restraint.

PDK Labs. Inc. v. United States Drug Enforcement Admin., 362 F.3d 786 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (concurring opinion). The concurrence here argues for judicial restraint. The majority held that the plaintiff had standing to seek review of DEA's suspension order and then went on to attempt to interpret or clarify the statute authorizing the DEA to forbid importation if "the chemical may be diverted to the clandestine manufacture of a controlled substance." Id. at 789 (citing 21 U.S.C. § 971(c)(1)). In his concurring opinion, Roberts chides the majority for going beyond what was necessary to remand the case. He argues that once the standing question was resolved, the case should have been vacated and remanded without further discussion, citing the "cardinal principle of judicial restraint -- if it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more." Id. at 799. He further noted that imposing its interpretation on the DEA violated the Chevron doctrine, because it did not give the DEA an opportunity to rule on the interpretation issue first.

S.A. Storer & Sons Co. v. Sec. of Labor, 360 F.3d 1363 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Unanimous panel (Henderson, Tatel, Roberts) vacated and remanded decision by the Secretary of Labor that company had violated OSHA regulations concerning the safety of scaffolding. But, appears to be a "mixed" decision from the labor perspective, because although the Court held that one regulation had been improperly interpreted, the Court also held that the employer had not appropriately protected worker safety in another aspect. (NOT WRITING)

(2) Constitutional/Employment/Other

Sioux Valley Rural Television, Inc. v. Fed. Communications Comm'n, 349 F.3d 667 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Roberts wrote for a unanimous panel (including Henderson and Tatel) in a reverse-race/sex discrimination case regarding FCC's bidding rules. Petitioners alleged that the FCC's decision to revoke minority- and women-owned business credits, while at the same time extending credits for all successful small businesses, was unfair to non-minority- and non-women-owned businesses. The court rejected the claim, noting that the FCC had no discriminatory intent in adopting the change, and that it was not arbitrary or capricious for the agency to make the new bidding rules retroactive.

Hedgepeth v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 2004 WL 2381320 (Oct. 26, 2004). Roberts wrote for a unanimous panel, affirming the decision by Judge Sullivan below, that a young girl who was arrested for eating a french fry in rail transit station could not state a claim for violations of her Equal Protection or Fourth Amendment rights, and the court could not inquire into reasonableness of decision to arrest since the District of Columbia's Code specifically prohibited conduct in question and there was probable cause to arrest. While admitting that the result was harsh and acknowledging that the policy was subsequently changed, Roberts' decision reflected judicial restraint, deferring to the police.

United States ex rel. Totten v. Bombardier Corporation, 380 F. 3d 488 (D. C. Cir. Aug. 27, 2004). This is one of Roberts' opinions that resulted in a dissent. The case involved a qui tam action against a contractor under the False Claims Act for allegedly submitting false claims to Amtrak in order to obtain payment for allegedly defective railroad cars. Roberts' panel decision with Judge Rogers determined that a payment to Amtrak was not a payment to the government subject to the False Claims Act. Judge Garland's dissent disagrees with Roberts' literal statutory interpretation. It does not appear that there is a significant basis to attack the opinion, although Sens. Grassley and Leahy may very well question him about it given their strong support for an expansive reading of the False Claims Act.

Lohrenz v. Donnelly, 350 F.3d 1272 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Unanimous panel (Rogers, Silberman, Roberts) concluded that plaintiff, one of the first female combat pilots in the Navy, was a "public figure" for purposes of establishing defamation under NYT v. Sullivan, and that she had failed to prove "actual malice." This arguably could be characterized as an anti-female opinion, since the appellee was an interest group opposed to allowing women to serve in combat positions in the military. (NOT WRITING)

Warren v. District of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Unanimous panel (Randolph, Williams, Roberts) held that a pro se prisoner had stated a § 1983 claim for relief -- based in large part on the fact that "pro se prisoner complaints should be `liberally construed.'" Id. at 37. (NOT WRITING)

In Acree v. Republic of Iraq, Roberts wrote a concurring opinion that argued for the result (which was the dismissal of a case involving American POWs from the 1991 Gulf War who had sued the Republic of Iraq and its president) citing the plain meaning of the governing statute's language rather than a more extended argument adopted by the majority. See Acree v. Republic of Iraq, 370 F. 3d 41 (D. C. Cir. June 4, 2004, reh'g en banc denied Aug. 19, 2004). Roberts' opinion indicates that he has respect for Congress' authority and attempts to be faithful to the express language of a statute wherever possible. (NOT WRITING)


Rust v. Sullivan, 1990 WL 505725 (Sept. 7, 1990). The government's brief here, co-written by Roberts, arguably went beyond what was required by the case's merits to state the broader policy of the administration -- that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. The most controversial portion of the brief is the following quote:

Petitioners argue that the Secretary's regulations impermissibly burden the qualified right discerned in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), to choose to have an abortion ... We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled. As more fully explained in our briefs, filed as amicus curiae, in Hodgson v. Minnesota, 110 S. Ct. 2926 (1990); Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 109 S. Ct. 3040 (1989); Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747 (1986); and City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416 (1983), the Court's conclusions in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion and that government has no compelling interest in protecting prenatal human life throughout pregnancy find no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution. If Roe is overturned, petitioners' contention that the Title X regulations burden the right announced in Roe falls with it. But even under Roe's strictures, the Title X regulations at issue do not violate due process. This Court has repeatedly recognized that `the Due Process Clauses generally confer no affirmative right to governmental aid, even where such aid may be necessary to secure life, liberty, or property interests of which the government itself may not deprive the individual." (citations omitted). Thus, while under Roe the government may not prohibit a woman, during the first trimester, from choosing to have an abortion, the government is not obligated to provide the means to exercise any such right ... (citations omitted).

This will be a significant, if not the primary, point of attack on Roberts. Although Roberts, as the principal deputy SG, was a co-author along with several others (Starr as Solicitor General, Gerson as Asst. Attorney General-Civil, and Jeffrey P. Minear, Assistant SG, and others), and did not direct policy for the Dept. of Justice under President George H. W. Bush, this was the focus of much of the opposition to Roberts' nomination to the D.C. Circuit, and will no doubt be the focus again.

Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation et al., 1990 WL 505743 (April 6, 1990). While in the SG's office, Roberts co-authored the government's brief. As noted in his article defending Lujan, Roberts argues that the decision applied established standing jurisprudence--proof of an injury in fact. Roberts frames the issues as "whether a federal court may effectively supply the requisite proof of standing by `presuming' facts that the parties did not--and perhaps cannot--allege on their own." This will undoubtedly be raised again, both because of its charged environmental background, and because Scalia wrote the opinion for the majority adopting Roberts' argument.

EEOC v. Arabian American Oil Co., 1990 WL 511330 (Nov. 15, 1990). Roberts' brief for the government argued the Title VII prohibits employment discrimination outside the United States by an American corporation against an American citizen working abroad. This brief might be useful in deflecting criticism of Roberts' record on civil rights claims.

Burns v. United States, 1990 WL 505508 (Sept. 12, 1990). Roberts argued here that Due Process does not require a district court to notify a defendant in advance of its intent to depart upward in the sentence prescribed by the Sentencing Guidelines. This brief might be used in support of criticism of Roberts' civil rights record and perceived hostility to "due process." Because the case relates to procedural, rather than substantive, due process rights, however, the case should raise few problems.

Houston Lawyers Ass'n v. The Attorney General of Texas v. League of United Latin American Citizens, 1991 WL 11007899 (March 4, 1991). Roberts argued in favor of applying the "results" test of the Voting Rights Act to the election of state court judges and to the election of offices that can be held by only one person. This case could potentially be used to show that Roberts' represented his government client in an expansive reading of the Voting Rights Act.

United States v. Mabus, 1991 WL 527603. Roberts also represented the government, arguing that Mississippi continued to propagate a "dual system" of racially segregated public universities in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As previously discussed, this brief can be used to rebut claims that he is anti-civil rights.

Astoria Fed. Savings & Loan Ass'n v. Solimino, 1991 WL 11007849. Roberts was on the amicus brief filed on behalf of the U.S. and the E.E.O.C. The question presented was whether, in a federal court proceeding under the ADEA, state agency findings of fact that have not been judicially reviewed have preclusive effect. The brief argues that while state agency findings should be accorded substantial weight, they should not have preclusive effect.

United States and FCC v. Edge Broadcasting Company, 1993 WL 289152. Respondent radio/licensee mounted an attack on Congress' power to regulate the advertisement of state lotteries over radio airwaves. The brief argued in support of Congress' power to regulate gambling and that there was no First Amendment violation with the regulation of this commercial speech.

United States v. A Parcel of Land, Buildings, Appurtenances . . . 92 Buena Vista Ave., Rumson NJ, 1993 WL 445385. Brief argues in support of a tough approach to the enforcement of a civil forfeiture statute for property purchased with the proceeds from a drug transaction(s). The government's position was that even when a person (here, a girlfriend) receives a gift of money derived from drug sales and purchases property with that gift, that person cannot assert a valid "innocent owner" defense.

Jerome B. Grubardt, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, 1994 WL 249174. Roberts represented the Respondent. This suit concerned the unique application of admiralty principles in federal court.

First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, et al., 1995 WL 71517. Roberts represented Respondent Kaplan. Roberts argued that the question of whether parties agreed to arbitrate is a question for the courts, not arbitrators, under the Federal Arbitration Act. Generally, a pro-business approach is one that would argue for the arbitrators, not the courts, deciding the scope of the arbitration clause. Here, however, he was merely representing his particular client's interests.

International Union, et al. v. Bagwell, Clinchfield Coal Co., et al., 1993 WL 417634 Roberts represented the Respondent coal companies against the unions -- seeking to uphold the state court's method for sanctioning the unions' violent activities against, among other arguments, due process clause considerations.

Digital Equipment Corp. v. Desktop Direct, Inc., 1993 WL 657281. Roberts represented Petitioner in this case dealing with federal appellate jurisdiction. The arguments were confined to the scope of the "collateral order" doctrine for interlocutory appeals.

Holly Farms, Tyson Foods, Inc. v. NLRB, 1995 WL 756167. Roberts represented Amicus Curiae National Broiler Council in supporting Petitioners. This brief merely argued statutory interpretation principles regarding the National Labor Relations Act in a way more favorable to the chicken industry.

Brown v. Pro Football, Inc., d/b/a Washington Redskins, et al., 1996 WL 72349 (AMICUS). Roberts represented Amicus Curiae Associated General Contractors of America, Inc. supporting Respondents. This amicus brief supports not imposing antitrust liability on the multi-employer bargaining process in dealing with collective bargaining agreements. The amicus comments on the effect on industries, other than football, if the court accepted the labor position.

Medtronic Inc. v. Lora Lohr and Michael Lohr, 1996 WL 109618 (AMICUS). Roberts represented Amicus Curiae Center for Patient Advocacy and the Calif. Health Care Institute in support of Petitioner-Cross Respondent. This amicus brief supported the position that the Medical Device Act, created by Congress to promote the development of medical devices, preempts state common law product liability claims against manufacturers of FDA-cleared devices. Roberts argued in support of broad federal preemption, calling the state's product liability laws a "liability tax" imposing a "societal toll."

State of California, et al v. Dillingham Construction, Inc. et al., 1996 WL 335322 (AMICUS). Roberts represented Amicus Curaie Associated General Contractors of America, San Diego Chapter, Inc. and other general contractor associations. The general contractors challenged excessive state regulation of their apprenticeship training programs. The amici essentially argued for federal preemption via ERISA.

Glickman, Sec'ty of Agriculture v. Wileman Bros. & Elliot, Inc., 1996 WL 419702 (AMICUS). Roberts represented Amicus Curaie National Assoc. of State Depts. of Agriculture, The National Milk Producers Federation, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Assoc. in supporting the Petitioner. Glickman involved a First Amendment attack by certain fruit handlers against the marketing orders issued by the Sec. of Agriculture requiring the fruit handlers to pay a user fee for a government program designed to increase sales of several types of fruit. Roberts' brief added an argument in support of the Secretary that the speech at issue was "government speech" and not private speech at all.

Adams et al. v. Robertson and Liberty National Life Insurance Company, 1996 WL 798905. Roberts represented Respondent Liberty National Life Insurance Co. Roberts argued against allowing every class member an absolute right to opt out of a state law class action and proceed with their own lawsuit. The case involved a pattern of company-wide misconduct by Liberty Life. Roberts argued for a strong concept of a class action in a manner that benefits and provides certainty to defendants. Roberts also argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction because at no point did the Alabama Supreme Court address any constitutional arguments made by the petitioners.

Jefferson v. City of Tarrant, Alabama, 1997 WL 401190. Roberts represented the Respondent City of Tarrant, Alabama. This case concerned the interplay of Section 1983 and the Alabama Wrongful Death Act in determining the recovery by the decedent's estate. The brief argues against crafting some federal common law to replace state law on remedies for the deceased or the survivors. These arguments are entirely consistent with a federalism-based approach to tort law.

National Credit Union Admin. and AT&T Family Credit Union et al. v. First National Bank and Trust Co, 1997 WL 245673. Roberts represented the Petitioners AT&T Family Credit Union and Credit Union National Association, Inc. This case concerned the application of the Administrative Procedure Act and the propriety of an agency decision.

State of Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government et al., 1997 WL 523883. Roberts represented the Petitioner State of Alaska. This brief simply asks the Court to overturn an absurd decision by the Ninth Circuit, which held that some 1.8 million acres of land in North Central Alaska constituted "Indian Country."

Feltner v. Columbia Pictures Television, Inc., 1997 WL 710933. Roberts represented the Petitioner Elvin Feltner. The brief argues for a jury trial in actions for statutory damages under the copyright infringement statute, 17 USC 504(c). Roberts also asserted an argument that the 7th Am. guaranteed the right to a jury trial. At the time, there was a circuit split on these issues, especially on a finding of "willful infringement" where the fine increases substantially. The positions argued and the method for reaching the desired result appear consistent with tenets of judicial restraint.

Eastern Enterprises v. Appel, Commissioner of Social Security, 1998 WL 42890. Roberts represented Amicus Curaie, Ohio Valley Coal Company and Maple Creek Mining, Inc. in support of Respondent Commissioner of Social Security. Roberts' brief here raises arguments on behalf of medium and small-sized coal mining companies who supported the constitutionality of the "Coal Act." Roberts' clients entered into "me too" agreements that bound them to labor agreements cut by the larger coal mining companies. The Coal Act significantly reduced what these coal mining companies had to pay for retiree health benefits. He argued that the act survived rational basis review for regulation of commerce.

NCAA v. Smith, 1998 WL 784591. Roberts represented the Petitioner NCAA. Roberts argued against extending Title IX to a private organization not receiving federal financial assistance itself but having member organizations that do receive federal funding (universities).


"Article III Limits on Statutory Standing" (Response to Critics in Defense of Lujan Decision), 42 Duke Law Journal 1219 (April 1993). As Principal Deputy Solicitor General, U.S. Dept. of Justice from 1989 - 1993, Roberts had acted as lead counsel for the United States in Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871 (1990). In this article, resulting from a symposium on Lujan at Duke Law School, Roberts offers a defense against Professors Nichol and Pierce and in support of Justice Scalia's decision for the majority in a sister case, Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 112 S.Ct. 2130 (1992), in which the Court held that the plaintiffs in the case lacked standing to sue under the Endangered Species Act because they had failed to prove an injury in fact. Rather than being the "transformation of the law of standing" that its opponents describe, Roberts sees the Defenders decision as an "exercise of judicial restraint, soundly based on precedent." Environmental lobbies will undoubtedly argue that this decision was an attack on citizens' ability to protect the environment. The decision is easily defended, correctly, as an example of judicial restraint, and because of the weak case the plaintiffs brought in the case, the environmental issue is not likely to catch the public at large's attention. However, the overall political effect of Roberts' role in this decision combined with others is more likely to be a characterization of Roberts as a defender of Scalia and anti-environment.

"The 1992-93 Supreme Court" (Review of 1992-93 Term as part of Symposium: Do We Have a Conservative Supreme Court?), 1994 Public Interest Law Review 107 (1994). Roberts reports on the decisions of the 1992-93 Supreme Court Term with a largely neutral tone, but does argue that the 1992-93 term, like its two preceding terms, "belied the popular myth that the current Court is politically conservative" or "pro-government." While most of the article simply states holdings in a reportorial tone, a couple of statements provide subjective commentary and could draw attention. First, in one passage, Roberts notes that many of the Court's decisions are "of scant interest to anyone beyond the parties," and cites examples including an esoteric question of tax law, a question of entitlement to post-petition interest, and whether a lake in Nebraska shared a priority date that would subject it to Bureau of Reclamation diversion and storage practices. He concludes the passage by stating, "Such is the daily grind of the Court, cases as to which, in Justice Brandeis's words, `it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right.'" While the passage is both harmless and an astute observation, it could possibly be unfairly twisted by an opponent to support the view that Roberts either finds environmental issues not worth caring about, or that he is more concerned with certainty in the law than a case being decided correctly. Second, a few paragraphs later, Roberts cites Justice White, newly retired at the time of writing, as "plainly the strongest advocate of congressional power on the Court, the Justice least likely to find an impediment to upholding what he perceived to be the considered judgment of Congress. In this regard, at least, [Justice White] has been aptly characterized as one of the last of the New Deal liberals by commentators writing on his departure." This quote could be used to support the contention leveled at Roberts during his confirmation to the D.C. Circuit that he has since law school held strong opinions that Congress' powers under the Commerce Clause should be curtailed. Again, this would put him squarely in line with Scalia's jurisprudence.


Articles on Potential Supreme Court Nominees

New York Times, May 1, 2005. "The outsiders most frequently mentioned on Mr. Bush's short list for chief justice and associate justice are all federal appellate judges: Samuel Alito Jr. of New Jersey; Emilio Garza of Texas; J. Michael Luttig of Virginia; Michael McConnell of Colorado; John Roberts of Washington D.C.; and J. Harvie Wilkinson III, also of Virginia. All are as conservative as Justice Rehnquist, or slightly to his right. None would substantially alter the balance of the Court."

Legal Times, Feb. 22, 2005. "By contrast, Roberts, with 20 months on the D.C. Circuit, has few opinions or other writings that have attracted enemies. As a result, some conservatives have made unflattering comparisons between Roberts and Supreme Court Justice David Souter, whose short stint on the 1st Circuit before being appointed in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush failed to reveal Souter's moderate-to-liberal leanings on some issues. Yet those who know Roberts say he, unlike Souter, is a reliable conservative who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action. Indicators of his true stripes cited by friends include: clerking for Rehnquist, membership in the Federalist Society, laboring in the Ronald Reagan White House counsel's office and at the Justice Department into the Bush years, working with Kenneth Starr among others, and even his lunchtime conversations at Hogan & Hartson. "He is as conservative as you can get," one friend puts it. In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas."

Opinion Journal, Nov. 15, 2004. "Two men mentioned for chief justice are J. Harvie Wilkinson and John Roberts. Both have the intellectual firepower, writing skills and temperament for the job; both are well-respected in liberal legal circles. `They are to the right what Justice (Stephen) Breyer and Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg are to the left,' says a source close to the White House. Judge Roberts was confirmed unanimously to the appeals bench last year."

Yahoo News, Jan. 20, 2005. "The third, Judge John Roberts Jr., 49, was confirmed in 2003 for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He is thought of as one of the best lawyers ever to argue before the Supreme Court, but less is known publicly about his views. Associates of Roberts, who clerked for Rehnquist, vow that he is a strong and principled conservative. But some acknowledge that the conservative base could be reluctant to support him enthusiastically because of promises made during the nomination of Justice David Souter."

Nomination to D.C. Circuit, May 10, 2001. Upon nomination to the D.C. Circuit, coverage was generally very favorable, comparing Roberts to Miguel Estrada and finding him to be, variously, "more balanced [than Estrada]", "a popular member of the bar," "a politically well-connected moderate," and "one of the two or three most effective lawyers [arguing before the Supreme Court]. See The Star Ledger, May 10, 2001; National Journal, May 19, 2001. Articles also noted that Roberts filed a brief opposing affirmative action in the Adarand case, and served on the National Legal Center for Public Interest's Legal Advisory Council with Kenneth Starr, C. Boyden Gray, and Eugene Meyer of the Federalist Society.

Microsoft Litigation. There was significant coverage of Roberts' argument on behalf of 18 states against Microsoft in the antitrust litigation. Frequent references to his being "hammered" particularly hard by D.C. Circuit judges about his argument that District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's comments to the press did not constitute evidence of bias sufficient to throw out the district court's findings of fact. Also, one article referenced Roberts' argument that Microsoft's inclusion of Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system constituted an illegal tying arrangement.

Several left-wing extremist groups objected to Roberts and will likely do so again. Objections came from NARAL based on his authorship of briefs in (a) Rust v. Sullivan, in which he stated that the Supreme Court's conclusion in Roe v. Wade that there is a fundamental right to abortion "finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution"; and (b) Bray v. Alexandria Women's