No matter what criteria one employs, the conclusion is inescapable: Judge Roberts is among the best lawyers of his generation. Judge John Roberts: Legal Top Gun

In general, Americans aspire to have the best of everything ― the best food, the best sports, the best military ― and the best Supreme Court. And to the extent that any American outside the Washington Beltway contemplated what they wanted in a new Supreme Court justice, it’s a safe bet that they would say: “the best.”

That’s precisely what President Bush has given us with his nomination of Judge John G. Roberts, Jr., to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

In short, Judge Roberts is unquestionably among the best Supreme Court advocates. Before joining the federal bench in 2003, Roberts argued 39 cases before the High Court, putting him in the company of a select handful of expert litigators who have routinely stood before the justices. He has argued successfully on behalf of a wide range of clients, from the U.S. government to pro-bono individual clients who needed, but couldn’t afford, a strong presence before the Supreme Court.

Judge Roberts’ educational and early experiences laid the groundwork for this success. After graduating summa cum laude from Harvard College in only three years, Roberts excelled at Harvard Law School, earning high honors and serving as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Following law school, Roberts clerked for Judge Henry Friendly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and later for Justice William Rehnquist on the Supreme Court. He worked in the Reagan administration as a Justice Department attorney and Associate White House Counsel. And he served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General, representing the U.S. government before the Supreme Court, under President George H.W. Bush.

In the first days since his nomination was announced, Judge Roberts has been pronounced, “brilliant,” with “outstanding legal credentials,” and “superb.” Even leading Democrats like Leon Panetta and former Gore campaign chairman Tony Coehlo have praised Judge Roberts “fair mindedness” and “impeccable credentials. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, caught by a reporter while on a fishing trip, called Roberts’ selection, “Fabulous. … He’s good in every way.” And when the Senate Judiciary Committee was considering Roberts’ confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, then-Chairman Orin Hatch told the hearing that “Roberts has been recommended by three Supreme Court justices.”

Judge Roberts’ pre-nomination qualifications compare favorably to several giants of Supreme Court lore: Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Benjamin Cardozo, and Louis Brandeis. Each distinguished himself by rising to the top of his profession before ascending to the High Court. Each demonstrated exemplary intellect and insight through the practice of law or scholarship before joining the bench.

Could Judge Roberts become one of the Supreme Court’s giants? Only in a far off decade will history be able to judge. But certainly the potential is there. One commentator has favorably compared Judge Roberts’ persuasiveness and intellect to Justice William Brennan’s ― who was renowned for his ability to assemble High Court majorities ― and suggested that Judge Roberts could be a major intellectual force on the Court. Judge Roberts’ colleagues have dubbed him a “lawyer’s lawyer,” the ultimate complement.

Indeed, no matter what criteria one employs, the conclusion is inescapable: Judge Roberts is among the best lawyers of his generation.

For Americans, who want the best of everything, Judge Roberts is precisely the kind of choice we should all celebrate and precisely the kind of nominee that the Senate should confirm without delay.

July 21, 2005
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