Looking More Moderate Than His Early Writings

Richard B. Schmitt and Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 15

WASHINGTON—Chief justice nominee John G. Roberts Jr. offered a fuller accounting of his views on voting rights and affirmative action Wednesday in carefully guarded testimony that provided the barest hints that he did not hew to the most conservative positions on the two sensitive issues.

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Despite Roberts’ reticence on several fronts, a somewhat more complete portrait of the 50-year-old federal appeals court judge and former Reagan administration lawyer emerged. At times, his newly expressed views seemed at odds with those contained in the thousands of pages of memos and musings he wrote as a government lawyer two decades ago.

Pressed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Roberts said he saw nothing “constitutionally suspect” in a provision of the Voting Rights Act that he had raised questions about in the early 1980s. The provision makes it possible for minorities to win voting rights cases without proving intentional discrimination by election officials.

His position on the rights law—a portion of which is set to expire in 2007—is a central concern to Democrats wary that as chief justice, he would promote rigidly conservative views on civil rights.

Roberts expressed support for portions of a 2003 opinion by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor upholding the rights of state universities to consider race in making admission decisions. Roberts said it was proper for the court to take note of the positive effect of racial and ethnic diversity in the military when it upheld an admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School.

“You do need to look at the real-world impact in this area,” Roberts said.

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