This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Roberts will be difficult to "push off the edge," UB legal expert says

Published: July 21, 2005

Contributing Editor

Unless liberal interest groups uncover something extreme about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, he should survive the nomination process and earn confirmation, says UB political science professor Mark Hurwitz, an expert on judicial politics.

"Roberts likely will not come off as a firebrand, extreme conservative. He's the antithesis of the public perception of Robert Bork," says Hurwitz. "He should be very difficult to push off the edge.

"Roberts will face a tough battle, the toughest since the confirmation of Clarence Thomas," Hurwitz predicts, "but unless there's a real problem with Roberts that we don't know about, he will be confirmed. It will be a close party-line vote, but he will be confirmed."

Hurwitz says interest groups will exert tremendous influence on the process, with liberal groups "digging up whatever they can" about Roberts. But unless something unexpected comes up, Hurwitz does not think it will change the votes of moderate Republicans who come from pro-choice states, like Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

During confirmation hearings, Hurwitz does not expect Roberts to define his position on abortion, though he does think Roberts will be an "anti-Roe v. Wade justice."

"For the last 25 years, there's been a tradition of not commenting on issues that may come before you on the court," Hurwitz says. "Thomas didn't do it, nor did Sandra Day O'Connor nor Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The only one who did was Bork and we know what happened to him.

"Since Bork, the nominee has been getting away with saying as little as possible, and I think that will be the case with Roberts."

Roberts's impeccable credentials and the absence of an extreme-conservative paper trail make it very difficult for liberals to knock down Roberts, Hurwitz concludes. "He's very much the candidate the Bush administration wants to portray."