These days, the United States Supreme Court, usually located at 1 First St., Washington, D.C., can now be found between a rock and hard place over the issue of Judge John G. Roberts’s nomination for chief justice.
Despite the fact that Roberts is brand-new to the Supreme Court and 50 years old, to say he has no judicial experience would be incorrect. The alumnus of Harvard College and Harvard Law School has held a post on the D.C. Court of Appeals (a venue widely regarded as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court) since 2003 and was previously a successful private attorney.
However, his pre-Court credentials are not enough to overshadow the issue regarding Roberts’s age. If appointed, Roberts could serve as Chief Justice for 30 years – possibly into our grandchildren’s generation. This could result in infrequent justice turnover and political stagnation, as we’ve seen with the Rehnquist Court. There can be no change of views if a leader holds a position for an extended period of time. Current issues like same-sex marriages will have little chance if the same people who are against it forever remain in office.
Democrats are up in arms about Roberts’s nomination, many fearing that some of his more conservative views will reign for the next 30 years. Roberts is consistently partial to law enforcement, putting the search and seizure clause under the Fourth Amendment into question. He also lobbies for heightened presidential powers and questions affirmative action.
However, Roberts, while a conservative, is on the moderate side. Seeing much public unease toward his views, Roberts has outwardly stated that he has no intention of overturning Roe v. Wade and seems supportive of environmental issues.
In the case of nominating the Supreme Court’s new chief justice, President Bush has decided to use foresight (a rarely used skill of his) regarding the inevitable protestation from the Democrats.
Instead of nominating Justices Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas – two ultra-conservatives – he made a more moderate selection to appease both parties. Unfortunately, the choice between the new blood and the two who know the territory of the Supreme Court entails so many pros and cons that it makes for a Democratic lose-lose situation.
If the 69-year-old Scalia was selected, he could be expected to only hold the position for roughly 15 years. But he’s a classic conservative. With Roberts in the chair, there will be a moderate judgment. Yet there would be the same chief justice for 30 years.
The decision will come down to which alternative is the lesser of two evils. Regardless of this Supreme Court indecision, the scramble for the chair will most likely end with a plaque engraved with Roberts’s name.