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Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter plans to use the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts to criticize what he calls the high court’s judicial activism, saying Tuesday that justices have started acting as a “super legislature.” “I am concerned about the Supreme Court’s judicial activism which has usurped congressional authority,” Specter, R-Pa., said in a letter to Roberts, who will face senators’ questions at his confirmation hearing on Sept. 6. Women’s groups say Roberts should also face questions on their issues. Several groups scheduled briefings this week to highlight areas in Roberts’ record they say are particularly troubling to women. They cited memos from his years as a lawyer in the Reagan administration showing skepticism toward the right to privacy and affirmative action — areas in which retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was a swing vote. “Just as John Roberts deserves a full hearing, so do the concerns about women,” said Linda Basch, president of the National Council for Research on Women, which represents about 100 women’s research and policy centers at universities. Linda Chavez, president of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, said the recent attacks on Roberts on women’s issues were unfair. “What are his beliefs about women?” asked Chavez, who worked with Roberts in the White House during the 1980s. “He worked with women as colleagues. He married a very high-powered lawyer. This is a man quite comfortable in his generation working in a setting with members of the opposite sex as equals.” Specter warned Roberts at the beginning of the month that he’d be questioned about the Supreme Court’s attitudes toward Congress. In Tuesday’s letter, Specter said he wants the nominee to talk to him about “manufactured rationales used by the Supreme Court to exercise the role of super legislature and make public policy decisions which is the core congressional role under the Constitution.” Specter said he will question Roberts about two Americans with Disabilities Act cases that the court decided in 2001 and 2004. In 2001, the high court declared the ADA’s Title I unconstitutional in seeking to hold a state liable for employment discrimination, Specter said, but in 2004 the same court upheld the ADA’s Title II in mandating access to a paraplegic who had to crawl up steps to a courtroom. “These decisions pose two major problems,” Specter said. “A lack of stability or predictability in the law because the two cases, decided three years apart, are virtually indistinguishable; and, two, the court’s judicial activism in functioning as a super legislature.” Congress had held hearings around the nation to support the ADA’s passage, but the court said in the 2001 case that the legislative record simply “fails to show that Congress did in fact identify a pattern of irrational state discrimination,” Specter said. Justice Antonin Scalia, in his 2004 dissent, said the 2001 decision meant the court was setting itself up as Congress’ “taskmaster” and derided the notion that “the courts (and ultimately this court) must regularly check Congress’ homework.” “Isn’t there a lack of respect for Congress demonstrated by the Supreme Court, as Justice Scalia points out that it is ‘ill advised’ for the court to set itself up as ‘taskmaster’ to determine that Congress has done its ‘homework’?” Specter asked. The liberal group People for the American Way was expected to announce its opposition to Roberts’ nomination at a press briefing Wednesday. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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