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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

EXECUTIVE SESSION -- (Senate - September 27, 2005)



Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise in support of the nomination of John G. Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States. By his nomination of Judge Roberts to be Chief Justice, President Bush has not only fulfilled his constitutional responsibility but he has demonstrated sound judgment and great wisdom by this nomination.

In bipartisan fashion, our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee have similarly demonstrated such judgment and wisdom in recommending that we consent to that nomination. I urge my colleagues to follow the committee's recommendation.

Judge Roberts is an able jurist, a decent man, and he should be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Both by his professional career and his answers to questions during the committee's consideration of his nomination, Judge Roberts has demonstrated his unwavering fidelity to the Constitution and commitment to the rule of law.

``The rule of law'' is a phrase often used in public discourse. It trips easily off the tongue. Too often, it seems, we recite it with a banality that comes with the assumption that it is self-evident and self-executing. It is neither.

Jefferson wisely taught that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. So, too, the rule of law requires both vigilance and continuous oversight.

Far beyond fulfilling the constitutional responsibilities of this body, the confirmation process involving Judge Roberts has served as an essential reminder of the constitutional role of judges and the judiciary under our Republican form of government. At a time when too many of those in the judicial branch have sought to use their lifetime-tenured position to advance their own personal ideological or political preferences in deciding matters which come before them, at a time when too many within the legal, media, and political elites have sought to recast the role of the judiciary into a superlegislature, approving of and even urging judges to supplant their views for those of the elected representatives of the American people, Judge Roberts has served to remind us that such actions and such views are anticonstitutional and contrary to the rule of law itself.

The American people have listened to Judge Roberts in this regard. They like what they have heard because it rings true with what we all learned but some have forgotten, from high school civics class and what we profess in doctrines of separation of powers among the branches of our Federal Government.

Let me repeat some of what Judge Roberts has said:

Judges and Justices are servants of the law, not the other way around.

Judges are not to legislate, they're not to execute the laws.

Judges need to appreciate that the legitimacy of their action is confined to interpreting the law and not making it.

Judges are not individuals promoting their own particular views, but they are supposed to be doing their best to interpret the law, to interpret the Constitution, according to the rule of law, not their own preferences, not their own personal beliefs.

These are simple but profound statements. They go to the heart of our constitutional system and what we mean by the rule of law.

As Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts will not only serve as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but he will also serve as the leader of the entire Federal judiciary, setting the standards, showing the way, and speaking for an entire branch of our Federal Government. Every judge in our Federal system and every person who aspires to join its ranks at some future date should hear and receive Judge Roberts' words and seek to follow them with fidelity. A lot is riding on their willingness to do so.

Judicial independence is another phrase bantered about of late by judges and others who feel threatened by legitimate congressional oversight of the judiciary. Judicial independence does not exist to shield judges from congressional and public scrutiny from improper judicial actions. Judicial independence does not shield judges from the inquiry of impeachment and removal from office for lawless actions on the bench. Federal judges, appointed for life, subject to removal only upon impeachment, are afforded this extraordinary power precisely to permit them to follow the law, even when following the law may be politically unpopular.

Describing his own fidelity to the Constitution and to the rule of law, Judge Roberts told the Judiciary Committee:

As a judge I have no agenda. I have a guide in the Constitution and the laws and the precedents of the Court, and those are what I would apply with an open mind, after fully and fairly considering the arguments and assessing the considered views of my colleagues on the bench.

We should confirm Judge Roberts not merely because he said that; we should confirm him because he has lived it. We can ask no more of our judges but we must ask no less. Let this be the standard we apply to this nominee and to future nominees, both to the Supreme Court and to lower courts.

I urge my colleagues to confirm the President's nomination of Judge John G. Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States.

I yield the floor.

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