Justice, Nominee Bring New Blood To Long Tradition
John Glover Roberts was confirmed September 30 as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. His nomination by President George W. Bush and his confirmation by a 78 to 22 Senate vote brought an end to speculation about who would succeed the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist but opened the door to still more speculation as to what direction the Court would take on a number of thorny issues.
One of those issues confronted Roberts almost before he had a chance to get comfortable in the Chief Justice’s seat. When it convened for its opening session on the first Monday in October, the court considered whether the federal government or individual states have the final say on doctor-assisted suicide—the so-called right-to-die issue. Allowing a single exception for Oregon, which state’s right-to-die law is under consideration by the Court, would open the door for other states to create a patchwork of rules for steroids, painkillers and other drugs.
One opinion on one case is not an indication of where Roberts will stand on every issue that comes before the Court. He is expected to follow closely the examples and precedents of Rehnquist, his mentor and Chief Justice for 19 years, but there’s no guarantee that Roberts will always consistently adhere to Rehnquist’s example.
Even more an unknown quantity is Harriet Miers, Bush’s nominee to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor many times has provided a “swing” fifth vote when the nine-person Court ruled on a case and her resignation, which will become effective when Miers is confirmed by the Senate, will bring about even more changes to the Court. Miers is expected to be largely conservative in her rulings and votes, but as is the case with every other Justice, nothing is carved in stone (except the motto incised over the entrance to the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., “Equal justice under law.”)
Miers seems to be an honest and honorable person who follows her conscience. When confirmed, we are sure that she, like Roberts, will be a credit to the Court and the president who submitted both their names for consideration and confirmation.
While confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice might seem to be a ticket to a dream job—lifetime tenure, guaranteed salary and involuntary removal only through a lengthy and complicated impeachment proceeding—we do not envy anyone who sits on that bench. No matter how a Justice rules, someone somewhere will take exception to his or her decision, some more emphatically than others. We admire anyone who is willing to accept such working conditions.
We wish Chief Justice Roberts well as he sets out on what may very well prove to be a long and certainly a distinguished career on the nation’s highest court. We also wish success to Miers, in whatever form it may come. We also thank them for their willingness to truly serve their fellow citizens by continuing to uphold the principles of the Constitution of the United States, truly ensuring justice for all.