Bush Administration rejects request for Roberts documents

In a letter to Senate Democrats, the Bush administration on Friday formally rejected a request for documents from the years Judge John G. Roberts Jr. served as deputy solicitor general, setting up a potential confrontation over material Democrats say is essential to a thorough examination of Mr. Roberts’s Supreme Court nomination.

From the New York Times:

The Justice Department letter said that such material had been protected in the past under attorney-client privilege and that releasing it would set a dangerous precedent and inhibit the agency’s lawyers from frank discussions of pending cases.

“The office simply could not function effectively if its lawyers were asked to provide full and candid advice in spite of the expectation that their work product would be fair game in any subsequent Senate confirmation process,” the letter said.

The decision had been foreshadowed by the administration late last month, but Democrats immediately expressed strong disappointment.

“These records are important because they are a window on Judge Roberts’s approach to the constitutional rights that are the birthright of every American - rights that touch all our lives in so many ways every day,” Mr. Leahy said in a statement.

He and other Democrats said the stance was typical of an administration they criticize as failing to be open with Congress. Under Mr. Bush, the refusal of the White House to hand over documents requested by Senate Democrats has prompted the Democrats to block Senate approval of some nominees, including Miguel Estrada to a judgeship on a federal appeals court and John R. Bolton as United Nations ambassador.

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