Sen. John Cornyn on Roberts' Wake Forest Speech

In Depth

Alex Chadwick talks further about Judge John Roberts' February 2005 speech at Wake Forest University with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the key legislators poised to decide the judge's fate in the Senate confirmation process.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Now reaction to that speech we just heard from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn is on the Judiciary Committee that's been reviewing materials ahead of those September 6th confirmation hearings.

Senator, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Senator JOHN CORNYN (Republican, Texas; Judiciary Committee): Thanks, Alex. Good to be with you.

CHADWICK: Have you seen a transcript of this tape, you've gone over these remarks from Judge Roberts?

Sen. CORNYN: Well, I know they're part of the materials that the Senate Judiciary Committee has. I've read the story form the LA Times and I've heard excerpts. And frankly I find the comments attributed to Judge Roberts both reassuring and unsurprising. Reassuring in that obviously Judge Roberts is the kind of judge who is not going to make up their mind ahead of time what the results should be, but rather listen to the arguments and the facts and make up his mind after all the information is in. The other part of it that's unsurprising, really, coming from somebody who actually served on an appellate court for seven years, is that other judges on the court do influence the outcome. That's why they call them collegial decision-making bodies. And frankly, I think it ensures better decisions because an individual person is going to be certainly a product of their world view and experience, and it's helpful to have a variety of perspectives certainly on the most important questions confronting the United States Supreme Court.

CHADWICK: You had been a judge before you became a senator, which you are now. So maybe this is a process that one comes to or an understanding one comes to after a couple of years on the bench, which is really what Judge Roberts has had.

Sen. CORNYN: Well, there is a different job. And I think this is an important point, Alex. It's a different role to be a lawyer for a client, whether that client is the Reagan White House or whether you're the solicitor general or deputy solicitor general, as John Roberts was, representing the United States before the Supreme Court. It's a different job than being a judge. You don't have the responsibility to make the ultimate decision; you are an advocate for a point of view or a client's desired litigation choice and perspective. And that is a completely different responsibility and I think, in my experience, one that judges, particularly new judges, come to as a very seriously and as a very profound difference and one they take enormous sense of responsibility for.

CHADWICK: Senator, The New York Times says you're one of the political managers for this nomination up on Capitol Hill. Politically, what about this speech? Does Judge Roberts sound like a man who is in the mold of Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, which is what President Bush said he wanted?

Sen. CORNYN: Well, of course I know that all of us are curious how he will ultimately turn out 10, 20 years from now, but Judge Roberts is a young man. He's had two years on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. I'm sure none of us know, including him, ultimately how he will evolve over the years when he's confirmed to the Supreme Court. But certainly he has the brilliance, his mind is very good, his legal experience is excellent. He's argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court, so he knows the court. But I think he's going to have an adjustment, just as any judge does, to a new role, a new sense of responsibility. But I have confidence, based on everything we know now, that he will be a good member of the Supreme Court and he will be confirmed.

CHADWICK: Will he be a conservative justice in the mold of Mr. Scalia and Mr. Thomas?

Sen. CORNYN: Well, I wouldn't--thank you for repeating the question. I wasn't trying to avoid it. But I believe that based on his writings and statements on what he believes to be the role of judicial self-restraint where he says that he believes judges should approach their role with humility and some modesty, particularly with regard to respect for the role of the executive and legislative branches of government, that he will be what I guess we would call a conservative judge, one who would not be inclined to to substitute his personal or other views for the choices made by the elected representatives of the people.

CHADWICK: Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thank you very much for being with us.

Sen. CORNYN: Thanks, Alex. Good to be with you.

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