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Well before Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s death on Sept. 3, these pages called for more openness in the approaching Senate hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. Now that Roberts has been nominated for the high court’s top spot, that hopeful call for candor has vaulted into the realm of urgency. An area of concern central to reservations about Roberts-his wafer-thin two years on the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia-has been substantially magnified with his potential elevation to chief justice. It is now more important than ever that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the public, know as much about Roberts’ legal views as reasonably possible. That knowledge should be augmented by the release of documents related to Roberts’ 3 1/2-year stint as deputy solicitor general from 1989 to 1993. In fairness, the contents of those documents should be viewed in the proper context of Roberts’ prime responsibility at that time: to shepherd and protect a specific political agenda. In addition, Roberts should avoid stonewalling the committee with tepid, vague answers. It is clearly within the mandate of the Senate Judiciary Committee to have more than a fleeting idea of Roberts’ views on Roe v. Wade, affirmative action and federal authority. The nominee’s supporters are fond of pointing to the 1993 questioning of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who refused direct answers on specific issues ranging from gay rights to gun control. Those same supporters have a short memory. Ginsburg did answer queries on abortion and privacy issues. But the point is immaterial. Even if Ginsburg had dodged every question, one evasive nominee should not automatically beget another evasive nominee. Each Senate hearing for a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court provides us a rare opportunity to get it right. Now we have two chances, including the eventual successor to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. So let’s get it right.

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