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Roberts reveals views on legal questions

Roberts appeared before the Senate judiciary committee for a third day Wednesday.


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Judge John Roberts, President Bush's pick to succeed William Rehnquist as the nation's chief justice, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the third day of his confirmation hearings Wednesday. Read below for some of the questions posed to the nominee in the hearings so far and his responses on the legal issues of the day.

Roe v. Wade

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania: "Judge Roberts, in your confirmation hearing for the circuit court, your testimony read to this effect, and it's been widely quoted: 'Roe is the settled law of the land.' Do you mean settled for you, settled only for your capacity as a circuit judge, or settled beyond that?"

John Roberts: "Well, beyond that, it's settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis. And those principles, applied in the [1992 Planned Parenthood v.] Casey case, explain when cases should be revisited and when they should not. And it is settled as a precedent of the court, yes." (Watch Specter question Roberts on Roe v. Wade -- :41)

Right of privacy

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania: "Do you believe today that the right to privacy does exist in the Constitution?"

John Roberts: "I do. The right to privacy is protected under the Constitution in various ways.

"It's protected by the Fourth Amendment, which provides that the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, effects and papers is protected.

"It's protected under the First Amendment dealing with prohibition on establishment of a religion and guarantee of free exercise. It protects privacy in matters of conscience.

"It was protected by the framers in areas that were of particular concern to them. It may not seem so significant today: the Third Amendment, protecting their homes against the quartering of troops.

"And in addition, the court has -- it was a series of decisions going back 80 years -- has recognized that personal privacy is a component of the liberty protected by the due process clause. The court has explained that the liberty protected is not limited to freedom from physical restraint and that it's protected not simply procedurally but as a substantive matter as well."

War powers

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont: "[Congress has] the power to declare war. Do we have the power to terminate war?"

John Roberts: "Senator, that's a question that I don't think can be answered in the abstract. You need to know the particular circumstances and exactly what the facts are and what the legislation would be like, because the argument on the other side -- and as a judge, I would obviously be in a position of considering both arguments: the argument for the legislature and the argument for the executive. The argument on the executive side will rely on authority as commander in chief and whatever authorities derive from that."

Torture memo

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont: "Do you believe that the president has a commander-in-chief override to authorize or excuse the use of torture in interrogation of enemy prisoners even though there may be domestic and international laws prohibiting the specific practice?"

John Roberts: "Senator, I believe that no one is above the law under our system, and that includes the president. The president is fully bound by the law, the Constitution and statutes. Now, there often arise issues where there's a conflict between the legislature and the executive over an exercise of asserted executive authority.

"The framework for analyzing that is in the Youngstown Sheet and Tube case, the famous case coming out of President Truman's seizure of the steel mills."

Most admired justices

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont: "You've said [Justice Robert H. Jackson] was one of the justices you admire the most."

John Roberts: "He is, for a number of reasons. And what's significant about that aspect of his career is here's someone whose job it was to promote and defend an expansive view of executive powers as attorney general, which he did very effectively. And then as he went on the court, as you can tell from his decision in Youngstown, he took an entirely different view of a lot of issues; in one famous case even disagreeing with one of his own prior opinions. He wrote a long opinion about how he can't believe he once held those views."

Judicial philosophy

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah: "An originalist, a strict constructionist, a fundamentalist, perfectionist, a majoritarian or minimalist -- which of those categories do you fit in?"

John Roberts: "Like most people, I resist the labels. I have told people, when pressed, that I prefer to be known as a modest judge. And, to me, that means some of the things that you talked about in those other labels. It means an appreciation that the role of the judge is limited; the judge is to decide the cases before them; they're not to legislate; they're not to execute the laws."

"Another part of that humility has to do with respect for precedent that forms part of the rule of law that the judge is obligated to apply under principles of stare decisis."

Voting rights

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts: "You do agree, don't you, Judge Roberts, that the right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right?"

John Roberts: "It is preservative, I think, of all the other rights. Without access to the ballot box, people are not in the position to protect any other rights that are important to them. And so I think it's one of, as you said, the most precious rights we have as Americans."

Personal values

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: "Is there any room in constitutional interpretation for the judge's own values or beliefs?"

John Roberts: "No, I don't think there is. Sometimes it's hard to give meaning to a constitutional term in a particular case. But you don't look to your own values and beliefs. You look outside yourself to other sources. This is the basis for -- you know, judges wear black robes because it doesn't matter who they are as individuals. That's not going to shape their decision. It's their understanding of the law that will shape their decision." (Watch the exchange between Grassley and Roberts -- 11:25)

Gender discrimination

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware: "Judge, is gender discrimination, as you've written in a memo, a perceived problem, or is it a real problem?

John Roberts: "Of course gender discrimination is a serious problem. It's a particular concern of mine and always has been. I grew up with three sisters, all of whom work outside the home. I married a lawyer who works outside the home. I have a young daughter who I hope will have all of the opportunities available to her without regard to any gender discrimination. There's no suggestion in anything that I've written of any resistance to the basic idea of full citizenship without regard to gender."

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