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Roberts nomination upgrade: Chief-justice-in-waiting

Scotushome As Orin Kerr expected and Mike Cernovich says he predicted "a long time ago," President Bush did upgrade John Roberts' nomination over the weekend, dubbing Roberts Supreme chief-justice-in-waiting to replace the late William H. Rehnquist.

The next step is for somebody on or affiliated with the Senate Judiciary Committee to confirm when confirmation hearings will begin. While the committee's official Web site is still advertising hearings for this morning, Legal Times' Tony Mauro and many other news outlets report that hearings will begin Thursday or Monday, Sept. 12. And I see from SCOTUSblog that the Supreme Court will be closed to business until Thursday while Rehnquist lies in state. Update: As of 6:45 a.m. PST, the official Web site indicates hearings are postponed. No start date is provided.

How'd Roberts get here?

First the data: Watchers of the appointee process know that Roberts' name has been a familiar sight on the confirmation docket (see David Espo's account of how both presidents Bush have been nominated Roberts since 1991). Update: The New York Times is unimpressed by Roberts' record, which underscores the tougher scrutiny Roberts will now get as nominee-in-chief, as the San Francisco Chronicle points out. David Franklin of Think Progress says media coverage overplays the role of chief justice, but as you can see from the comments he's recruited, not everyone agrees that this position's administrative powers are negligible.

Now the buzz: What captivates me is George W. Bush's swift decisionmaking to re-nominate Roberts as chief justice -- within 36 hours of the announcement of Rehnquist's death and amidst well-blogged national uproar over the widely criticized federal response to the tragedy in New Orleans. (I see that Linda Feldman remembers her 9/11 history well. Note to the Bush PR team: Write this on your shopping list -- h-i-p-w-a-d-e-r-s.) Todd Zywicki takes a stab at reading the tea leaves on how it all happened -- and while I don't think he and POTUS have been chatting, I am impressed by his musings on how Roberts' upgrade happened. Here's a taster:

" Why Roberts? Why did the President decide to nominate Roberts for Chief? The first reason is obvious -- the way things are shaping up, he seems like an easy confirmation.

"But allow me to propose a second, more speculative possibility. A distinguishing characteristic of this President seems to be the faith he puts in his own personal judgements and assessment of people. Perhaps it is arrogance, perhaps it is that he truly is a better judge of character and ability than the rest of us, but he truly seems to believe that he has better judgment about others than anyone else around him. Or perhaps he wants someone who he thinks will be loyal to him and no one else (such as outside interests). It is similarly my impression that far more than most Presidents he relies on his personal assessments of people who he chooses for his inner circle, rather than their resumes or experience. Indeed, he chose Roberts notwithstanding his relatively short time on the bench. Roberts, of course, was selected by him as well. Let me suggest that Roberts therefore has the one necessary (but not sufficient condition) for being Chief -- he had previously won the President's trust the first time around ..."

More here. And I see that Professor Bainbridge has gone where so many (particularly conservatives) have not dared to tread: Why not to nominate Justice Antonin Scalia.

Posted by Laurel Newby on September 6, 2005 at 08:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


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