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Roberts on abortion, privacy, term limits

The Spokesman-Review

Judge John Roberts declined to provide specific answers time and again on questions on abortion, end-of-life decisions and other issues Tuesday, the second day of hearings on his nomination as chief justice. But he offered some clues about his thinking.

Some of his remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Abortion: Roberts said that the core ruling in Roe v. Wade is settled court precedent and changing such precedents can jolt the legal system. But he would not reveal whether he thought the ruling was correct.

Right to privacy: A right to privacy is provided for by the Constitution, Roberts said, but he wouldn’t say whether it includes the right to an abortion.

Judicial precedent: Precedents are entitled to respect and people have expectations that they can rely on settled law, Roberts said. But he did not rule out that there are sometimes compelling reasons to overturn some precedents.

Judicial system: Roberts said the courts, which he described as passive, should have a limited role and should not create law, but rather interpret it.

Religion and ruling: Roberts said his faith and religious beliefs don’t play a role in how he judges a case and that he looks to law books – not the Bible – for guidance.

Women’s rights: Roberts said he supports equal rights for women, particularly in the workplace and rebutted questions about his commitment to women’s rights.

Desegregation: Roberts said he agrees with the court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education that segregating children in schools based solely on their race was unconstitutional.

War powers: Roberts said Congress has the power to declare war and cut off funding but said he could not answer, in the abstract, whether Congress has the power to terminate a war.

Gay rights: On his pro bono work for those who were seeking to uphold gay rights, Roberts said that good lawyers can give advice on any side of a case and that he never turned down any requests for such free legal work. He also said that if there had been something involved that he objected to on moral grounds, he wouldn’t have taken on the work.

Judicial term limits: Roberts said he’s changed his mind about whether there should be judicial term limits, an idea he supported in a memo more than 20 years ago. Roberts said he now sees that political problems could crop up if people knew when a judge would leave and could plan their legal activity based on what they anticipate the makeup of a court will be.

Voting rights: Access to the ballot box allows people to protect their rights and it is one of Americans’ most precious rights, Roberts said. Despite pressure, he declined to talk about the future of the Voting Rights Act, saying it could come before the courts again.

Associated Press

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