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Public Statements

Executive Session

Location: Washington, DC

EXECUTIVE SESSION -- (Senate - September 28, 2005)


Mr. VITTER. I thank the Chair.

I, too, rise in strong support of the nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I do that for two reasons, two equally important reasons. One is the strong qualification and background of Judge Roberts. But the second and perhaps just as important or even more important is the fact that this nomination and this confirmation process I believe has gotten us back as a Senate, as a country to the process that the Founders intended and the sort of values and the sort of qualifications, the sort of judgment by the Senate that the Founders intended.

We are finally remembering that it is the President's prerogative to nominate qualified persons to fill judicial vacancies, and in the past the Senate has accorded great deference to the President's selection. Justice Ginsburg was overwhelmingly confirmed 42 days after her nomination. Justice O'Connor was overwhelmingly confirmed 33 days after her nomination. So we are returning to that determination of the President's prerogative.

The White House is to be commended for engaging in unprecedented consultation with respect to this nominee. So we are also returning to a very robust and full and healthy consultation process. I understand that the Bush administration consulted with more than 70 Senators on the Roberts nomination, countless conversations and phone calls and meetings and now is a strong part of our tradition which we are certainly returning to.

Moreover, few would disagree that President Bush could not have nominated a more qualified person for this position. John Roberts has an impressive academic background, a distinguished career in Government service, private practice, and as a Federal judge.

So we are also returning to that fine tradition that actual qualifications matter. It is not all about ideology and political positions but qualifications, judicial temperament, those sorts of important considerations matter, first and foremost.

Certainly, Judge Roberts has those. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard college, my alma mater. He also graduated from Harvard Law school, magna cum laude. I guess he couldn't get into Tulane Law School, as I did, but I congratulate him on his accomplishments at Harvard. After graduation, he law clerked for Judge Henry Friendly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and then for William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Roberts enjoyed a distinguished career as a public servant in many different positions during the Reagan administration and became a partner at a major and highly respected law firm in Washington, DC, where he acquired the reputation as one of the finest Supreme Court advocates in the country. In fact, he argued an impressive 39 cases before the Supreme Court. Of course, as we all know, Judge Roberts was appointed in 2002 by President Bush for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit--those sort of mainstream qualifications.

Academic, practice, smarts, judicial temperament--all are certainly very important. But I think the single most important factor which qualifies Judge Roberts for this esteemed position is his appropriate view of what it means to be a judge, his appropriate view of the limited role of the judiciary and what that means in our system of government.

He has said, frankly and refreshingly, in a straightforward way, that judges should not place ideology above thoughtful legal reasoning. He is not the sort who will legislate from the bench. His judicial philosophy is based on the rule of law and on respect for the Constitution.

Let's think about what he said in his own words. This is what he said on September 12 at his confirmation hearing:

[A] certain humility should characterize the judicial role. Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules, they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules but it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to the ball game to see the umpire.''

He also said on the same occasion:

..... I come before the committee with no agenda, I have no platform. Judges are not politicians who can promise to do certain things in exchange for votes. I have no agenda. But I do have a commitment. If I am confirmed, I will confront every case with an open mind. I will fully and fairly analyze the legal arguments that are presented. I will be open to the considered views of my colleagues on the bench, and I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability, and I will remember it is my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat.

That, first and foremost, is the tradition we are getting back to with this confirmation. I sincerely hope that it is a tradition in which we remain grounded. Let's remember again the lessons of this nomination and this confirmation. Let's remember that it is the President's prerogative to nominate qualified persons to the bench. Let's remember that the Senate does have an important consultative role and let's all encourage the President to perform that consultation in a full and robust fashion, as he did with Judge Roberts. Let's remember that qualifications--smarts, academic credentials, practice history--are very important when you are talking about a judicial nominee. And let's all remember, first and foremost, that judges are umpires, they are not the players in the baseball game. That is the crucial distinction that I think we have lost over the past several decades and that we are finally trying to pull back to.

It is very important for us as a body to remember that lesson of this nomination of this confirmation as we move on. As we move on, I do think that is the most important open question. As the previous speaker mentioned, already certain Democrats in this body are threatening a filibuster without having the foggiest notion who the next nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court may be. Already they are threatening a filibuster of circuit court nominees who have basically been agreed to in terms of no filibuster in the Senate.

That would move us dramatically in the opposite direction from the one I have spoken about. That would turn the clock back. That would move us 180 degrees and point us again in that wrong direction.

I will be proud to join with other Members of this body tomorrow for this historic confirmation vote. I will be proud to vote yes for Judge John Roberts to be the next Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just as proudly, just as fervently, I will argue and fight to make sure that where we are today is where we remain in terms of future nominations and future confirmations; that we all remember that we are talking about an umpire to enforce the rules of the game, not a player--not a batter we like or a fielder we prefer but the umpire to enforce the rules as written.

I yield the floor.

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