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A Catholic Plurality on the Court:

Today's Washington Times has the most extensive write-up of Roberts's youth that I have seen (and it isn't very extensive):

Judge Roberts grew up in Long Beach, Ind., near Lake Michigan — a community where Bethlehem Steel managers lived. In high school, he was an excellent student and athlete, named as captain of the football team as well as editor of the school's newspaper. He graduated from Harvard summa cum laude in three years and received his law degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.

At 50, Judge Roberts — if confirmed — would be the youngest associate justice currently on the court. He also would be the 11th Catholic to serve on the high court and join with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy in outnumbering Protestants on the court for the first time.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Judge Roberts attended a Catholic boarding school in Long Beach, Ind., then transferred to La Lumiere, at the time an all-boys Catholic boarding school near La Porte, Ind. He graduated from there in 1973.

But Judge Roberts considers his faith "a private matter," said Shannen Coffin, former deputy assistant attorney general during Mr. Bush's first term.

"He is not going to approach the law as a Roman Catholic, nor as a white male," Mr. Coffin said. "John is a practicing Catholic but like most Catholics, he doesn't wear his faith on his sleeve. He is a man of deep and personal faith, but he'd also say he'd like to leave it at that."

Judge Roberts' wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, also is an attorney. From 1995 to 1999, she was an executive vice president for Feminists for Life, a 33-year-old pro-life group based in the District. She still serves as legal counsel for the FFL board.

"She's a brilliant attorney and we're very proud of her service to Feminists for Life," FFL President Serrin Foster said. "She's smart. There's a very Kennedyesque feeling when you look at them and their kids."

Update:

A couple other profiles here and here.

Jeff V. (mail):
The Kennedyesque quote is interesting. Kennedy himself was not all that liberal; I've often wondered, if JFK lived today, and his family did not have such deep Democratic ties, would he have been a Democrat or a Republican? Man, if the Republicans had a JFK, we Dems would really be screwed ... (I also think that David Brooks was right to compare RFK with Guiliani ...)
7.21.2005 11:21am
countertop (mail):
Have you read the New York Times profile of him?

I thought it was fairly extensive (right down to the Peanuts character - he played in a grade school assembly) and considering the source, evenhanded. Lots of comments by his teachers, classmates, colleagues, fellow law review members, etc.
7.21.2005 11:30am
Nobody (mail):
I hadn't heard about the FFL tie before. Interesting.
7.21.2005 11:33am
cfw (mail):
Roberts looks like the brain and personality that could rewrite Roe and do a better job than Blackmun. I'm not at all sure he would have an easy time ignoring privacy inplications of 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments. Seems cautious - not likely to do anything dramatic with Roe for 10 years or so. By then, could well have grown to support a constitutional right to an abortion (probably tied to 5th amendment equal protection rights). Does not seem the type who has bought (or will buy) the absolute abortion is murder concept.

My hunch is that the FFL connection might have put the family in touch with adoption resources in Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine leading to adoptions of two blonds one year apart. Just a hunch.

A dad who has been through the adoption process twice, who has seen all the less desirable kids that are not readily adopted, probably has a bit of immunity to the "abortion is murder" idea virus. He probably also knows that raising kids can be trying and is not for the faint heareted or less than committed who end up pregnant. May also know of ADD or AHDD issues that could make non-infants difficult to place with adoptive parents.

Interesting question for Roberts might be what do you think is the most important constitutional right embodied in the bill of rights. Put another way, which would you be least willing to have downgraded into a right that is subject to abolition or material change through the process of elections. If he says fifth amendment equal protection, or puts that in the top tier of rights he would personally hate to have downgraded, I would say anti-abortion folks have no clear ally in Roberts.
7.21.2005 12:23pm
Steve:
This is going OT, but I don't really get why so many families have to go abroad to adopt. I recently spoke to a friend who said they are working on adopting a baby from China, because it's become virtually impossible to adopt a US baby. Yet, if they're willing to go to China, I'm sure they're willing to adopt a minority baby in the US as well. So if there's really this huge supply of kids that have trouble getting adopted, why does it seem to be so difficult for them?
7.21.2005 12:47pm
BR:
"A dad who has been through the adoption process twice, who has seen all the less desirable kids that are not readily adopted, probably has a bit of immunity to the "abortion is murder" idea virus."

What a horrible thing to say. I doubt many people seeing kids in foster homes think that their mothers should have aborted them.

"Roberts looks like the brain and personality that could rewrite Roe and do a better job than Blackmun."

Scholars have been trying for 35 years. As a conservative Catholic federalist society type I see no indication that Roberts would continue to give support to the pretzel logic necessary to sustain the abortion right.
7.21.2005 12:49pm
adoption non-expert:
I disagree with cfw's supposition regarding the effect of Roberts' adoption experience on his likely Roe jurisprudence. In my view, children he loves and who love in return, whose existence depended on the whim (and perhaps faith) of their birth mother, will be powerful reminders that all life has magical potential and that no human has a right to decide whether innocent life exists or dies. Particularly on "quality of life" grounds.
7.21.2005 12:53pm
Abe Delnore (mail):
Yet, if they're willing to go to China, I'm sure they're willing to adopt a minority baby in the US as well.


Evidently they are not. Perhaps not all minorities generate the same demand.


It's also said that there may be fewer legal difficulties and opportunities for the biogical family to reclaim the child if you adopt overseas.


--Abe Delnore

7.21.2005 1:22pm
cfw (mail):
"A dad who has been through the adoption process twice, who has seen all the less desirable kids that are not readily adopted, probably has a bit of immunity to the "abortion is murder" idea virus."

"What a horrible thing to say. I doubt many people seeing kids in foster homes think that their mothers should have aborted them."

You might want to do some defense work in the death penalty federal habeas area - see the impact of child abuse, see the prisons filled with unwanted, abused children who grew up with no real chance in life. Lifestyle choice for parents is not what I am primarily concerned about. But keep in mind the rights and needs of the unwanted abused kids who end up in prison and the abortion is murder idea begins to look eaiser to let go.

Foster homes are supposed to be temporary. There is a time and place for raising kids. Not all who end up pregnant are at the right time and place, from the future kid's perspective. Is that horrible? No, it is just the way life on earth unfolds.

"Roberts looks like the brain and personality that could rewrite Roe and do a better job than Blackmun."

"Scholars have been trying for 35 years. As a conservative Catholic federalist society type I see no indication that Roberts would continue to give support to the pretzel logic necessary to sustain the abortion right."

We should recall that Blackmun was appointed by Nixon. His end result has stood the test of time. His document lacks elegance, which the mind of a Roberts could supply.

If Roberts were to "drop kick" Roe, it would be a "(1) the bill of rights has no ennumerated right that fits and (2) the residual rights to regulate are reserved to the states" approach. This suggests the anti abortionists should bubble up with cases based on state statutes.

Flys in the ointment that undercut the abortion is murder idea: what about rape, incest, health of the mother, underage pregnancy abortions? If abortion is ok then, does this mean murder is ok sometimes?

If a fetus is a being that is of less than full human status, and Roberts comes to know that, he could in good conscience say he sees no need to disregard settled precedent - meaning leave Roe as it stands.

"I disagree with cfw's supposition regarding the effect of Roberts' adoption experience on his likely Roe jurisprudence. In my view, children he loves and who love in return, whose existence depended on the whim (and perhaps faith) of their birth mother, will be powerful reminders that all life has magical potential and that no human has a right to decide whether innocent life exists or dies. Particularly on "quality of life" grounds."

I agree with "quality of life" being irrelevant to a point. But if mom cannot have some quality of life, how can she reliably raise baby? If she cannot or will not do so conscientiously, are we doing anyone a favor by insisting that she have the child?

One who has sorted through "whom to adopt" must know there are children up for adoption who have mental defects, who have behavior issues, who are not the same race as the proposed adoptive parents. Ideas supportive of contraception and abortion as birth control would seem to come naturally to such a person.
7.21.2005 1:31pm
Kedawi (mail):
I tend to think that one's moral judgments flowing from religious faith can legitimately be asserted in debates and decisions concerning public policy. However, accepting the legitimacy of such argument or decision-making in public life leads me to think that it is also proper to question candidates or nominees for public office about their religious beliefs and how they will affect the person's performance.

Given the stance of certain Catholic Bishops last year concerning their refusal to permit John Kerry to participate in the sacraments of his faith because of his unwillingness in his public role to implement his Church's position on abortion, the statements by Mr. Coffin that Judge Roberts does not approach the law as a Roman Catholic and considers his faith a private matter highlight some interesting questions.

Is it appropriate for the Senators to ask Judge Roberts whether he is capable of interpreting the Constitution or even a statute to permit conduct which his religion considers immoral? What if his religion considers the conduct intrinsically evil and would bar Judge Roberts from participating in its activities if he failed to do all he could to prohibit such conduct? Is it appropriate to ask him if he would be capable of interpreting the law to permit such conduct anyway?

Will any of the Senators ask such questions? Will Judge Roberts answer them? If he refuses to answer, is that sufficient grounds to block his nomination by a filibuster?
7.21.2005 1:41pm
Steve:
As I recall, Judge Pryor was asked several questions along those lines. Some Republicans viewed them as inappropriate.
7.21.2005 2:39pm