- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. in 1983 criticized a bill that awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to Rep. Leo J. Ryan, who was killed in what has come to be called the 1978 Jonestown massacre.

Judge Roberts, in a Nov. 18, 1983, memo to his boss in the White House counsel’s office, said that although there was no legal objection to President Reagan signing a bill awarding the medal, “I am not certain I would have voted to give” it.

“The distinction of his service in the House is certainly subject to debate, and his actions leading to his murder can be viewed as those of a publicity hound,” Judge Roberts wrote of the California Democrat.

Mr. Ryan had traveled to investigate a sect called “the People’s Temple,” led by Jim Jones, whose members were living in the South American nation of Guyana in a community known as Jonestown. Some sect members tried to leave with Mr. Ryan, and he and four persons in his group were killed while trying to board a plane to fly back. Then, at Jonestown, 913 persons died, many from drinking cyanide-laced Kool-aid and the others from being shot by guards loyal to Jones.

Mr. Reagan apparently disagreed with Judge Roberts’ opinion, because he signed the bill and said, “It was typical of Leo Ryan’s concern for his constituents that he would investigate personally the rumors of mistreatment in Jonestown that reportedly affected so many from his district.”

The memo about Mr. Ryan was part of 420 pages of documents from Judge Roberts’ days in the White House office, which the National Archives released yesterday.

Meanwhile, a new set of women’s and minority-rights advocacy groups announced their opposition to Judge Roberts yesterday: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Partnership for Women and Families and the National Women’s Law Center.

“The issue here is not whether the nominee is conservative. It’s the degree that concerns us,” said Bruce S. Gordon, president of the NAACP. He said the groups hoped to pressure senators from both parties to press Judge Roberts during the confirmation hearings, and so announced their opposition before hearing publicly from the nominee.

“To wait would have, by chance, possibly caused the process not to be as thorough, not to be as examining as it should be,” he said.

Also yesterday, Democrats stepped up criticism of the administration over the release of documents, with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders calling for President Bush to open up more files.

In particular, they want to see what Judge Roberts wrote when in the solicitor general’s office in the administration of the first President Bush.

“The decision to withhold these documents continues a troubling pattern of secrecy by your administration, and a failure to respect the role of Congress in our constitutional system,” the senators said. “If these documents are not made available, Judge Roberts bears a heavier burden to answer questions fully and forthrightly in the upcoming hearings.”

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