President Bush has nominated federal appeals court Judge John Roberts to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Republicans have welcomed the selection while opposition Democrats are vowing to ask some tough questions during his upcoming confirmation hearings in the Senate.
With Judge Roberts at his side, President Bush announced his choice for the Supreme Court from the White House before a national television audience: "The decisions of the Supreme Court affect the life of every American and so a nominee to that court must be a person of superb credentials and the highest integrity, a person who will faithfully apply the Constitution and keep our founding promise of equal justice under law. I have found such a person in Judge John Roberts."
Judge Roberts is 50 years old and has extensive legal experience. He has argued before the Supreme Court dozens of times, representing both the government and private clients.
Judge Roberts served as a law clerk to then Associate Justice William Rehnquist in the early 1980's before joining the Reagan administration as a lawyer in the White House. He then served in the Justice Department under President Bush's father, often arguing the administration's position on legal cases before the Supreme Court.
In brief remarks to the country, Judge Roberts thanked President Bush and said he was humbled by his nomination: "Before I became a judge, my law practice consisted largely of arguing cases before the court. That experience left me with a profound appreciation for the role of the court in our constitutional democracy and a deep regard for the court as an institution."
Judge Roberts now faces confirmation by the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the president's Republican Party.
Republicans were enthusiastic about the Roberts nomination and his conservative credentials.
This is Senator John Cornyn of Texas: "I think the president has chosen well. He has chosen a known quantity. In addition to his service on the bench, Judge Roberts has
done something that not many lawyers have had a chance to do. He has argued 39 cases before the United States Supreme Court."
Opposition Democrats were decidedly less enthusiastic about Judge Roberts and promise to question him closely during confirmation hearings.
Charles Schumer of New York is a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee: "It is vital that Judge Roberts answer a wide range of questions openly, honestly and fully in the coming months. His views will affect a generation of Americans and it is his obligation during the nomination process to let the American people know those views."
Republicans argue that Judge Roberts should not be forced to answer questions about legal issues that may come before the Supreme Court.
President Bush says he has spoken with several Senate leaders and hopes for a smooth confirmation process that will result in Judge Roberts being sworn in on the court in time for the beginning of next Supreme Court session in early October: "These senators share my goal of a dignified confirmation process that is conducted with fairness and civility."
If confirmed, Judge Roberts will take the place of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She is the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and has been a pivotal vote on a range of controversial legal issues including abortion, affirmative action and the death penalty.