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July 29, 2005

A Few Diffused, Faint Clues
documents of U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts

Department of Justice personnel escort documents of U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts from when Roberts was the associate counsel for the Reagan administration, July 26, 2005. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court has received generally good reviews, but Senate Democrats are demanding the release of papers that Judge Roberts wrote during his years as deputy solicitor general under the first President Bush. They say this will help them decide what positions Roberts is likely to take as a Supreme Court Justice. Many of them hope the papers will provide ammunition to oppose the Roberts nomination.

The Bush Administration has released some of the Roberts papers from his earlier government service, but it argues that releasing the solicitor general papers would make government lawyers wary of giving candid advice, for fear their private recommendations would not stay private. The administration cites executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. It is not the first time a White House and a Congress have clashed over this.

Joining the panel to discuss the Roberts nomination and the upcoming battle are Steve Moore, a member of the editorial board, Kim Strassel, a senior writer for the editorial pages, and John Fund who writes for and is closely following how the Senate handles the Roberts nomination.
Paul Gigot
Paul Gigot
"The White House turned over more than 70,000 documents this week related to Roberts' work in the Reagan Administration, was this a smart move? Democratic members of the Senate asked to see some of Roberts' memos written while he was a government lawyer in the solicitor general's office. Why shouldn't the Senate have the right to see these documents?"
John Fund
John Fund
"Those 70,000 documents came from his years working for Reagan. The White House says its hands were tied because the Clinton Administration had waived executive privilege on those documents. Now they are saying we're not going to give you any more from the Bush years, when he was deputy solicitor general. I don't think you can make a clear philosophical distinction between the Reagan papers and the Bush papers."
Kim Strassel
Kim Strassel
"Let's remember how much is actually out there. Two years ago he was nominated for the D.C. Circuit, Roberts gave 14 hours of testimony for the Senate. He provided more than 100 pages worth of written answers to questions that had been given to him by the Senate Judiciary. We've got 75,000 pages of documents, we've got 300 cases he worked on while he was on the D.C. Circuit."
Bret Stephens
Bret Stephens
"John Roberts had an obligation when he was deputy solicitor general under the first President Bush to give the solicitor general and the president candid advice. If the executive is going to function efficiently, lawyers working for the president have to know that this material isn't going to appear 15 years later on the desk of Senator Chuck Schumer of New York."

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ARCHIVE: WSJ - Paul Gigot Commentary

ARCHIVE: Opinion Journal - John Fund On the Trail

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Kimberley Strassel Commentary