Floor Statement of Senator John Warner on the Nomination of John Roberts

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On the Nomination of John Roberts
by John Warner
Delivered on 20 July 2005.

Mr. President, I rise to speak on behalf of the prospective member of the Supreme Court. The nomination of Judge John Roberts has been transmitted to the Senate by President Bush. I express my very strong support, based on the facts as we now know them, for this outstanding individual.

I wish to commend the President of the United States on his selection, and particularly commend him with regard to the procedures he followed pursuant to the constitutional clause of advice and consent. He consulted a number of the Members of the Senate in the context of this nomination of Judge Roberts and, indeed, the process that will soon be undertaken by the Senate.

Also, I wish to speak to the Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of 14 individuals, 7 Republicans and 7 Democrats, of which I have been privileged to have been a member of from the very beginning, and I wish to speak to the work the group performed on behalf of the leadership and the Members of this body.

In the course of drawing up the memorandum of understanding between members of the Gang of 14, I was privileged to work with my good friend of so many years and, indeed, a former leader of the Senate, Robert Byrd of West Virginia. We devised the portion of our memorandum of understanding as it relates to advice and consent. Speaking for myself, I believe the President lived up to, in every respect, what our expectations and desires were in putting in that clause. I thank my friend from West Virginia, as I have often done on the floor of the Senate, for his advice, and sometimes consent, to my own views.

Mr. President, that group of 14 did provide the foundation for our leaders -- Republican and Democrat -- to bring forth the nominations of six Federal circuit judges, each of whom received the advice and consent of the Senate, and now serve as federal judges. I think that is an important point that should be brought up in the context of this nomination.

Also, the question is sometimes asked about another clause of our memorandum of understanding, extraordinary circumstances. I feel as follows:

By way of background, I was privileged to introduce the then-lawyer John Roberts to the Senate Judiciary Committee on two occasions. The Judiciary Committee had two hearings and asked him to appear in both instances.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the remarks I made at those hearings, which detail extensively his biography and the like.

I was privileged to have that opportunity. In the context of performing that task before the Judiciary Committee, I made an independent assessment for myself of his credentials to be a Federal judge. Indeed, I talked to a number of friends who knew him very well.

I point out that I was privileged to serve as a law clerk on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where he is currently serving. In addition, I had the great opportunity to be associated with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, eventually becoming a partner. Justice Roberts, of course, in his distinguished career, likewise was a member of the firm of Hogan & Hartson before going into various responsible positions in the executive branch, which are enumerated in my detailed biographical sketch of him.

I bring that up because I have a very strong feeling about the firm of Hogan & Hartson. I had the opportunity while there to be closely affiliated with senior partner Nelson T. Hartson. I was a junior lawyer and he was then general counsel to Riggs National Bank and other financial institutions here in the Nation's Capital. I had the privilege of carrying his briefcase, as a young lawyer often did, and preparing his memorandum and briefs and the like during my own work for those clients. He was a magnificent man of the old school and of the law firms of this Nation.

Hogan & Hartson stands out second to none as a law firm in this Nation. I remember so well that Nelson T. Hartson had ethical standards second to none. His leadership permeated down through that firm, certainly in those early days when I was privileged to be there. The firm is much larger now, but it still has a profound reverence for its founder, its leader and former senior partner Hartson, and the principles for which he stood, primarily in the area of ethics.

As to my independent examination, I certainly believe John Roberts brings to this Senate a clear record of extraordinary public service and achievements. But the question is sometimes asked about the issue of extraordinary circumstances in reference to the memorandum of understanding among the Gang of 14. I can only express my own opinion, but I do so very carefully.

I am respectful of the process by which the chairman and ranking member of the Senate's Judiciary committee will examine this nominee. They both are dear and valued friends whom I have known over the course of the 27 years I have served in the Senate. They have an important function to perform in the Judiciary Committee. In no way do I want to get out ahead of their examination of the record. Therefore, I only opine that based on what I know today regarding John Roberts and my own independent investigation at the time I was privileged to introduce him, I can only opine as this process evolves that there will not be, in my judgment, a body of fact that would give rise in any way to invoking the extraordinary circumstances provision of the Gang of 14's memorandum of understanding.

Again, I carefully couch that, reserving my respect, as we all do, for the work to be done by the Judiciary Committee. But in the end, I repeat, I do not think there will be any body of fact that will give rise to invoking the extraordinary circumstances clause.

I had the pleasure this morning to call quite a few friends all across the Commonwealth of Virginia, on both sides of the spectrum, to listen to their views about this nominee. I regard those conversations as private, certainly in terms of the names of the individuals. But I was given the liberty to say two individuals, whom I have known for my entire 27 years plus -- I will add 1 year, 28 years, 1 year campaigning for the Senate when I knew them both -- two of the most extraordinary and nationally and internationally known religious leaders shared with me their strong approval and appreciation to the President for the nomination of this distinguished gentleman.

Likewise, I talked with a number of friends on the other side of the spectrum, two of whom are acknowledged liberals whom I have known for decades and whose opinions I value from time to time. These individuals with whom I spoke this morning have known Judge Roberts, and they likewise recognize the extraordinary credentials of this fine individual, and I think in their own ways expressed strong support.

I mention that because I think it is important for all of us to reach out and seek the views of those who feel, as I do, that this nomination is one of the most important contemporary chapters of American history.

Also, this morning, in response to several press inquiries about the Senate, I have stated that I unequivocally believe that this institution will proceed with its responsibilities under the Constitution, under the advice and consent clause, in a manner that reflects credit on the Senate itself and in a manner that reflects fairness and dignity towards the nominee. I believe that the Senate will proceed in the finest traditions of its over 200 years of experience in terms of its duties of advice and consent, and I think our nation, and indeed, much of the world, will concur when the process is finally complete.

I conclude by moving into that terrain that is always a bit dangerous –- listening to good friends who have known John Roberts for many years talk about him. I met with him briefly this morning. We joked together about this. He said: Now, I am a little apprehensive, John, about some of the persons with whom you talked. But in any event, just the warmest accolades were extended by old friends who mentioned the fact that John Roberts had been very active in what we call pro bono cases.

When I was an assistant U.S. attorney in the District for years, I saw the abuses of the system where those apprehended under the law for alleged criminal violations did not receive the quality of legal representation to which they were entitled. I participated with a number of my friends in establishing at Georgetown University the Prettyman Institute, which trains young lawyers in how to deal with pro bono cases. I remember Judge Oliver Gasch, now the late Judge Gasch, who was very active in working with me, as we worked with the Georgetown University Law School and established that institute. It has been very successful.

I mention that because John Roberts has had quite a record, as has Hogan & Hartson, in pro bono representation of those whose economic circumstances are so much less fortunate than ours, but nevertheless are entitled to first-class representation, and this fine lawyer and jurist has given that in years past.

In addition, in the firm of Hogan & Hartson, John Roberts was also often sought out by the young lawyers to counsel with them on how best to do his expertise, that is appellate court work. That is always magnificent in a firm when there is an individual to whom the young lawyers can go, perhaps those outside of the firm too, and get advice.

Also, there is a small lunchroom in the firm now and there is a table there. It is interesting, the table is dedicated to William Fulbright, a distinguished Member of the Senate who later worked with Hogan & Hartson. Around that table some great conversations occurred. Often, when John Roberts was at the table with his other partners and fellow lawyers in the firm, they recognized that he could be engaged in almost any subject and have a serious contribution. For example, he loves sports. Like so many of us, given the opportunity, when he gets up in the morning, he kind of looks at the sports page before he goes to all of the news on the other pages. Certainly I do, and I think a lot of Americans do that. He can give you statistics about the Redskins and the baseball teams and others. It is extraordinary.

When I look at the entirety of this individual and look at the American public -- I am not talking just about the interest groups who will take a role in this one way or another, as they should and are entitled to, but I am talking about those citizens who watch our government perform its duties -- I believe the American public will judge this individual as the facts come out. For those who will follow it, it will be quite an education with regard to not only the institution of the Senate and its constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent, but the law of the land and the very large number of issues that face this Nation today, issues that may well come before the Supreme Court someday.

So there is an educational process for all of us to be had. But I think in the final analysis, the American public will say to itself: This man has the right stuff and will do the right thing for America and for us as individuals.

Mr. President, I have already placed in the Record my introduction of then-lawyer Roberts, now Judge Roberts, at two previous hearings. I have an extraordinary letter written by, I think, about 150 lawyers, many of whom I know because so many of them I have had associations with through the years. It is addressed to the leadership of the Judiciary Committee. It says:

The undersigned are all members of the Bar of the District of Columbia and we are writing in support of the nomination of John G. Roberts, Jr., to serve as a federal court of appeals judge....

It is extraordinary. It is Democrats on one side, Republicans on the right, and a mixture in the center. I cannot recall in my years here ever seeing a document of such import as this in the context of a judicial nomination.

I ask unanimous consent that this letter be printed in the Record.