Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
A fastidious editor of other people’s copy as well as his own, [ John] Roberts began with the words “Until about the time of the Civil War.” Then, the Indiana native scratched out the words “Civil Warand replaced them with “War Between the States.” The handwritten document is one of tens of thousands of pages of Roberts files released over the past several weeks from his 1982-86 tenure as an associate counsel to the president. While it is true that the Civil War is also known as the War Between the States, the Encyclopedia Americana notes that the term is used mainly by southerners. Sam McSeveney, a history professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University who specialized in the Civil War, said that Roberts’ choice of words was significant. “Many people who are sympathetic to the Confederate position are more comfortable with the idea of a ‘War Between the States, McSeveney explained. “People opposed to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s would undoubtedly be more comfortable with the words he chose.” � Aug. 26 Washington Post (“In Article, Roberts’ Pen Appeared to Dip South”) As journalists delve into the more than 60,000 pages of documents detailing the career of John Roberts in the Reagan White House and Justice Department, more new and disturbing revelations are coming to light. These revelations, gleaned from handwritten revisions and interlineations, portray the Supreme Court nominee as not only opposed to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, but also hostile to women, Native Americans and open-mindedness in general. * * * From the Sept. 30, 2005, New York Times (“Roberts’ Rules of Order Reveal Early Disposition to Oppose Roe v. Wade“): Evidence of how a Justice John Roberts might rule in a future case testing the continued vitality of Roe v. Wade was unearthed today as journalists continued to plow through thousands of documents released by the White House. In the fall of 1982, a young John Roberts, only recently graduated from Harvard Law School, was assigned the task of collecting takeout orders from White House legal staff members for an evening work session. Roberts collected the orders from fellow staff members, then compiled them into a single written order, which was messengered over to Ledo Pizza in nearby Georgetown. The newly released documents include the original orders from the staff members, along with Roberts’ handwritten compilation. Two orders � one written by White House Counsel Fred Fielding and the other by Councilor to the President Edwin Meese � both used the word “choice” in describing their respective pizza ingredient preferences. In compiling the orders into one collective request, Roberts showed a self-confidence astonishing in so junior a staffer. While generally honoring the men’s gustatory wishes (with the exception of deleting a double order of pepperoni from Councilor Meese, a request Roberts may have considered redundant), Roberts took it upon himself to delete the word “choice” and substitute the word “selection” in the unified takeout order. Roberts’ decision to edit his superiors’ work product may have revealed an early and aggressive predisposition to look for opportunities to reverse Roe v. Wade. Professor of linguistics Victor Lippmann of Smith College notes, “While it is true that ‘choice’ and ‘selection’ are synonymous in most major dictionaries, the word ‘choice’ has particular resonance in the debate over women’s rights. Those who favor a so-called pro-life position would be expected to be more comfortable employing the word ‘selection.’” Recalling that the White House legal staff was considering challenges to Roe at the time, Lippmann observes: “Those opposed to women’s reproductive freedom would undoubtedly be more comfortable employing ‘selection’ over ‘choice’ in the rather fervid ideological atmosphere of the early 1980s.” * * * From the Oct. 7, 2005, Boston Globe (“Roberts’ Job Application Raises Suspicions Among Native Americans”): As a D.C. Circuit Judge, John Roberts was never entrusted with cases affecting the destinies of the nation’s Native Americans. But a Supreme Court Justice Roberts might well be. That is a prospect many Native Americans may find unsettling, according to experts who have studied recently discovered documents. In his original application for employment in the White House Office of Legal Counsel, and in his 1986 application for employment at the Justice Department, Roberts repeatedly handwrote “Indiana” in spaces requesting the applicant’s state of birth. Professor Hugh Zachheim, chair of the Language Arts and Disciplines Department at Middlebury College, theorizes that “Indiana” is derived from the word “Indian,” a name the early European explorers applied to the indigenous population, in the mistaken assumption that the New World was India. Most leading textbooks today refer to the indigenous tribes of the North and South American continents as Native Americans, rather than as Indians. Roberts’ repeated, some might say obsessive, use of the term “Indiana” (in addition to his job applications, the word is clearly visible on sweatshirts and pennants in photographs of Roberts) raises concern that Justice Roberts would be insensitive to the interests of Native Americans. Professor Saul Steinberg of Columbia University points out, “In purely geographic terms, Roberts may have been correct to use the term ‘Indiana’ in his job applications. No one denies there is a state named ‘Indiana.’ Geographers agree it is bounded on the north by Minnesota and on the south by Missouri, and the Mississippi River runs along its eastern border. Many people have viewed it from airliners on their way to or from California. But there are other ways to describe that region of the country, such as ‘the heartland’ or ‘flyover country.’ People who take a constricted view of the rights of Native Americans would undoubtedly be more comfortable choosing a name like ‘Indiana’ to describe their geographical origins.” Other experts agree that Native Americans would likely express concern over Roberts’ use of the word “Indiana,” if anyone asked them for their opinion. * * * From the Oct. 10, 2005, Time magazine (“Roberts Laundry Records Document Growing Rigidity”): The final batch of personal documents of John Roberts was released by the White House this week amid growing concern that the records portray a far more authoritarian, far less genial image than the administration had hoped to foster. The latest documents, released only after the ranking minority senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee threatened to issue a subpoena, include Roberts’ laundry slips. The slips were all filled out on Capital City Cleaners forms, and span the first 10 months of Roberts’ government service. The first slips, dated during the fall and winter of 1982, contain cleaning orders for shirts, pants and, occasionally, suits. Next to the shirt orders, the box for “No Starch” is consistently checked off. This trend continues into the early spring, but by May of 1983, Roberts begins to check off “Light Starch” with greater regularity. Then, in July, the slips show Roberts checking off the “Heavy Starch” box. Apparently, Roberts’ instructions were not always followed. In late August, this vaguely threatening handwritten notation appears: “Please remember to use starch this week. Perhaps I didn’t check off the right box last week. If so, I apologize. JR.” Georgetown University psychology professor Peter Hursh observes: “One might hesitate to read too much into laundry slips, but the trend toward mental rigidity is manifest. In Cambridge, Roberts had been a casual, likable fellow, with a pragmatic frame of mind. As he immersed himself in the daily operations of the Reagan administration, however, his mindset stiffened. He lost his intellectual flexibility.” Hursh is conscious of but not impressed by the argument that Roberts’ cleaners directives might have been affected by Washington’s climate. The heat and humidity, which intensify in summer months, cause many office workers to insist on starch. “No one disputes that Washington in the summertime is a dank environment. But let’s not play games. Doctrinaire minds often rest atop stiff necks. People opposed to intellectual innovation would undoubtedly be more comfortable wearing stiff, heavily starched collars.” * * * Until recently, most observers expected John Roberts to glide smoothly to confirmation. But the scrutiny given to the thousands of pages of decades-old handwritten notes and other personal documents has raised concerns. Not just over John Roberts � but also over the scrutiny. Contributing Writer Lawrence J. Siskind, of San Francisco’s Harvey Siskind Jacobs, specializes in intellectual property law. He can be contacted at [email protected].

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.