Roberts Hearings: Day 3

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Click here to watch video of Senator Biden questioning Judge Roberts on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee resumed its questioning of Judge John Roberts, nominee to be Chief Justice of the United States. Senator Joe Biden continued to press Judge Roberts about his commitment to a Constitutional right of privacy. Judge Roberts had testified only that he accepts the right as does every other member of the Supreme Court “to some extent.”

Senator Biden questioned Judge Roberts on whether he agrees with the same narrow view of privacy embraced by Justices Scalia and Thomas who (1) don’t believe that the right to privacy encompasses a woman’s right to reproductive choice; (2) don’t believe that the right to privacy includes the right of consenting adults to be free from criminal prosecution for what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms; and (3) don’t believe that right of privacy gives a fully competent adult the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. Judge Roberts repeatedly refused to reject this narrow, cramped view of privacy shared by Justices Scalia and Thomas.

In the wake of the recent Schiavo case in which the Far Right attempted to enforce their end-of-life agenda through the Courts, Senator Biden pressed Judge Roberts repeatedly for guarantees that he’d respect the rights of family members — not the state — to make right-to-die decisions. Senator Biden asked Judge Roberts: “Do you think the Constitution encompasses a fundamental right for my father to conclude that he does not want to continue - he does not want to continue - on a life-support system?” Judge Roberts refused to answer, stating “I cannot answer that question in the abstract,” prompting Senator Biden to reply: “That’s not abstract, it’s real.”

Trying again to determine whether Judge Roberts would respect right-to-die issues, Senator Biden said: “talk to me as a father . . . just tell me, just philosophically, what do you think? [Is] the decision of whether or not to remove a feeding tube after a family member is no longer capable of making the judgement . . . one that the legislators in Dover, Delaware, should make, or my mother should make?” Judge Roberts again refused to respond, declining to state whether he believed the Constitutional right to privacy should trump state laws which override the family’s wishes in right-to-die issues.

Senator Biden protested to Judge Roberts that “you’ve told me nothing” and expressed regret for “this Kabuki dance we have in these hearings here, as if the public doesn’t have a right to know what you think about fundamental issues facing them.” Senator Biden lamented that the President and Members of Congress must tell the public what they believe to get elected, while Republicans maintain that a Supreme Court nominee “doesn’t have to tell us anything . . . It’s okay, as long as he is — as you are — a decent, bright, honorable man, that’s all we need to know.”

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