Seems that Bush made a pretty wise pick. The only groups truly getting wadded up are the MoveOn.org types – even the Washington Post had a good editorial on Roberts, who is currently an appellate judge here in the DC Circuit:
The President’s Choice
Wednesday, July 20, 2005; Page A22
IN NOMINATING Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, President Bush picked a man of substance and seriousness. Judge Roberts has served only briefly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but he was previously among the country’s best-regarded appellate lawyers, both in private practice and as deputy solicitor general during the administration of George H.W. Bush. Judge Roberts is a conservative, but he has never been an ideological crusader; he has admirers among liberals. If confirmed as the successor to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, it is likely that he will shift the Supreme Court toward the right. But his nomination is not a provocation to Democrats – as some other possible nominees would have been. Mr. Bush deserves credit for selecting someone with the potential to attract broad support.
This is not to say that Judge Roberts’s nomination will proceed without controversy. At least one of his opinions since joining the D.C. Circuit raises a concern about his views of the balance of power between the federal government and the states. In that case, Judge Roberts intimated that he might take a very narrow view of the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce – the constitutional foundation of much of modern federal law. Judge Roberts poetically questioned whether "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.’ " Senators will need to explore whether he envisions a dramatic revision of federal power.
Other issues will surely arise. Judge Roberts’s two nominations to the D.C. Circuit – a failed bid at the tail end of the first Bush presidency, and a second in 2001 – were both held up because of liberals’ anxieties. Abortion rights advocates have objected to his having argued, as a lawyer for the government in a case about federal funding for family planning, “that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.” Judge Roberts has never said whether that brief reflected his own opinion. But the question has already come up anew – as have more general concerns that he is just too conservative.
The reality, however, is that nobody really knows what Judge Roberts believes, because he has been unusually careful about not discussing his views. His judicial work has been, generally speaking, careful and has given little away about the attitudes of the man who wrote it. So sphinx-like has he been that some conservatives have suggested he might have a “Souter problem” – that is, not be a real conservative at all. This seems unlikely. But Judge Roberts’s law practice was not ideologically driven, and he has not used his brief time on the bench – as some judges and justices do – as a platform to promote either his politics or a grandiose theory of judging. His confirmation hearings offer the Senate the opportunity to probe whether his evident reticence and caution would translate into a restrained jurisprudence that respects the stability of precedent.
Such a substantial picture of the nominee will require a serious and dignified confirmation process. The prospects for one are mixed. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) noted Judge Roberts’s “suitable legal credentials” and appropriately reserved judgment. By contrast, no sooner had the nomination been reported than People for the American Way declared itself “extremely disappointed” and suggested that his confirmation could be a “constitutional catastrophe.” Conservative groups, meanwhile, are demanding his immediate confirmation. In the days that come, the cacophony of voices promoting or opposing him could easily drown out any serious discussion of a man who deserves careful consideration. The Senate needs to make sure that a fair, open and substantive confirmation process takes place even amid the noise.
And while the NYT is its usual liberal self in its editorial this time around, ( http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/20/opinion/20wed1.html?hp ), that Roberts a scant two years ago was unanimously confirmed as an appellate justice by the Senate.
Jeffrey Rosen of liberal magazine The New Republic has a good synopsis of Roberts here:
Here is the excerpt in which he evaluates Roberts, who is included under the title “Principled Conservatives”:
John Roberts, 49. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit. Top of his class at Harvard Law School and a former law clerk for Rehnquist, Roberts is one of the most impressive appellate lawyers around today. Liberal groups object to the fact that, in 1990, as a deputy solicitor general, Roberts signed a brief in a case involving abortion-financing that called, in a footnote, for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. But it would be absurd to Bork him for this: Overturning Roe was the Bush administration’s position at the time, and Roberts, as an advocate, also represented liberal positions, arguing in favor of affirmative action, against broad protections for property rights, and on behalf of prisoners’ rights. In little more than a year on the bench, he has won the respect of his liberal and conservative colleagues but has not had enough cases to develop a clear record on questions involving the Constitution in Exile. On the positive side, Roberts joined Judge Merrick Garland’s opinion allowing a former employee to sue the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for disability discrimination. He pointedly declined to join the unsettling dissent of Judge David Sentelle, a partisan of the Constitution in Exile, who argued that Congress had no power to condition the receipt of federal transportation funds on the Metro’s willingness to waive its immunity from lawsuits. In another case, however, Roberts joined Sentelle in questioning whether the Endangered Species Act is constitutional under Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce. The regulation in question prevented developers from building on private lands in order to protect a rare species of toad, and Roberts noted with deadpan wit that “the hapless toad … for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California,” and therefore could not affect interstate commerce. Nevertheless, Roberts appears willing to draw sensible lines: He said that he might be willing to sustain the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act on other grounds. All in all, an extremely able lawyer whose committed conservatism seems to be leavened by a judicious temperament.
And the academics over at the Volokh Conspiracy were singing Roberts’ praises for the last month in this string, in which some described Roberts as the ideal nominee, but doubted Bush would put him up – and also analyzing how “The Deal” might work in Roberts’ case:
[If you follow the links, the posts are in reverse chronological order]