Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter asked Supreme Court chief justice nominee John Roberts this week about his pro bono work on a landmark case that overturned an anti-gay Colorado law in 1996.
Regarding the case of Romer v. Evans, Specter said to Roberts, “You gave some advice on the arguments to those who were upholding gay rights. There’s a quotation by Walter Smith, who was the lawyer at Hogan Hartson in charge of pro bono work. And he had this to say about your participation in that case… trying to help the gay community in the case in the Supreme Court.
“Mr. Smith said, quote, ‘Every good lawyer knows that if there is something in his client’s cause that so personally offends you, morally, religiously, or if it so offends you that you think it would undermine your ability to do your duty as a lawyer, then you shouldn’t take it on. And John’ -referring to you- ‘wouldn’t have. So at a minimum, he had no concerns that would rise to that level.’ Does that accurately express your own sentiments in (representing) the gay community in that case?”
After pausing to respond, Roberts said: “I was asked frequently by other partners to help out, particularly in my area of expertise, (and it) often involved moot courting. And I never turned down a request. I think it’s right that if there had been something morally objectionable, I suppose I would have. But it was my view that lawyers don’t stand in the shoes of their clients and that good lawyers can give advice and argue any side of a case. And as I said, I was asked frequently to participate in that type of assistance for other partners at the firm. And I never turned anyone down.”
Roberts has made a habit of refusing to comment on his personal feelings on issues such as gay rights and abortion. He has, however, alluded to his opinion that overturning Roe Vs. Wade, an issue that was decided in the courts, would be disrespectful.