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Sotomayor hearing: Chief Justice Roberts cast as the activist judge

July 13, 2009 |  9:31 am

JohnRoberts Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, took Republicans to task — along with conservative members of the Supreme Court.

Since Sonia Sotomayor was nominated for the high court in May, he said, Republicans have repeatedly spoken of “judicial modesty and restraint” as the model for a judge. These and other remarks aren’t critiques, he said, but slogans.

Whitehouse, without using the catchphrase “activist judges,” essentially argued that conservative justices indeed have been activists judges.

During his own confirmation hearing, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. cast himself as an umpire. His record shows otherwise, Whitehouse argued. The senator said that conservative justices have not reflected modesty or restraint and certainly haven’t been umpires.

In every major case Roberts decided, Whitehouse said, the chief justice sided with the prosecution over the defendant. He said the conservative members of the court also have repeatedly ignored precedent and discovered new constitutional rights. “Some balls and strikes,” he said.

-- Steve Padilla

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U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts poses for an official picture with other justices at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., October 31, 2005. Roberts replaced the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Reuters/Jason Reed