SCOTUS Nominee John Roberts Tried to Limit Civil Rights
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Amy Goldstein and Jo Becker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, August 1, 2005; Page A01
In the early 1980s, a young intellectual lawyer named John G. Roberts Jr. was part of the vanguard of a conservative political revolution in civil rights, advocating new legal theories and helping enforce the Reagan administration's effort to curtail the use of courts to remedy racial and sexual discrimination.
And he wrote a memo arguing that it was constitutionally acceptable for Congress to strip the Supreme Court of its ability to hear broad classes of civil rights cases.
A generation later, it is difficult to discern the extent to which Roberts, a federal judge for just two years, still holds these views and to determine how he might exercise them if the Senate next month confirms his nomination.
Roberts had deeply-held convictions during his tenure at the Justice Department, and "these aren't principles that evaporate or walk away."
Roberts's writings also show that he favored another pillar of the administration's new civil rights policies in education: an effort to limit the use of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which allows the government to withhold federal aid from schools that discriminate against women. Until then, Title IX had been interpreted to mean that all of a school's funding could be cut off if it discriminated at all, but Reagan officials rewrote the rules so that only the specific program found guilty of discrimination would lose money -- an interpretation that Congress later overruled.