- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005


Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts Jr. received a “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association yesterday, gaining another endorsement in his bid to sit on the nation’s highest court.

The rating — by unanimous vote of an ABA committee — was revealed as the Senate Judiciary Committee announced plans for Judge Roberts’ Sept. 6 confirmation hearings.

The schedule includes having the nominee questioned by the 18 senators on the panel for almost an hour each. The committee also will hold one hearing closed to the public, leaders said.

This is the fourth time that the ABA has rated Judge Roberts. He was designated as “well-qualified” in 2001 when nominated to be an appeals court judge in the District of Columbia and again in 2003 when he was re-nominated and confirmed. He had been rated “qualified” as an appeals court nominee in 1992, but the Senate never took up that nomination.

Judge Roberts, 50, will replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor if he is confirmed by the Senate.

For more than 50 years, the ABA has evaluated the credentials of people chosen for federal judgeships. Supreme Court nominees get the most intensive scrutiny.

A 15-member ABA committee handled the work, including a review of opinions and legal briefs, and voted that Judge Roberts was well-qualified to be a justice. ABA spokeswoman Nancy Slonim said the vote was unanimous.

The possible ratings are “well-qualified,” “qualified” and “not qualified.”

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and Judiciary chairman, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the panel’s top Democrat, said yesterday that Judge Roberts would have to face almost an hour’s worth of questions from each committee member before his confirmation process ends.

Each senator will get at least 50 minutes to question Judge Roberts and listen to his answers: 30 minutes in a first round and 20 minutes in a second round, the two senators said. Mr. Specter and Mr. Leahy also said in a letter to Judiciary members that more rounds for questioning could be scheduled if necessary.

Judge Roberts will be able to give an opening statement on the first day of the hearings, after the 18 senators give 10-minute opening statements and Judge Roberts is sworn. The questioning is to begin Sept. 7.

Mr. Specter and Mr. Leahy also revealed in the letter that the committee will be having a hearing on Judge Roberts that will be closed to the public. Mr. Specter said earlier this year that he might hold closed hearings if there is confidential information to be discussed.

The National Archives in Washington and the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., will release today more than 38,000 Roberts-related documents involving the nominee’s time as associate counsel to President Reagan covering subjects such as abortion, school prayer and the war powers of the president.

Those documents were reviewed by the National Archives staff to protect material deemed sensitive for national security, privacy and law-enforcement reasons. The Archives said 1,708 pages have been withheld under Freedom of Information Act exemptions.

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