- By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
Friday, July 22, 2005
(07-22) 16:53 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) --
Democratic Sen. John Kerry urged the White House on Friday to release "in their entirety" all documents and memos from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' tenure in two Republican administrations.
"We cannot do our duty if either Judge Roberts or the Bush administration hides elements of his professional record," said the Massachusetts senator who was his party's presidential candidate last year.
Opening what is expected to be a broader attempt by Democrats to pry loose documents, Kerry issued his statement as Roberts made the latest in a series of courtesy calls on senators in advance of confirmation hearings.
Democratic officials also said Friday they want access to all material regarding Roberts at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. Roberts served in the White House counsel's office from 1982-1986. He was principal deputy solicitor general in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
The Reagan Library, in Simi Valley, Calif., holds an unknown number of documents relating to Roberts, arranged by subject matter. While material in some subjects are designated on the library's Web site as available to the public, most is not.
Among the publicly unavailable material is an entry marked "Specter, Senator." Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on Roberts' nomination, beginning either in late August or early September.
The Democratic officials said Democrats also are eager to learn details of Roberts' activities in Florida in 2000, at the time of the state's contested presidential recount. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to provide details.
An attorney in private practice at the time, Roberts flew to the state at his own expense to offer advice to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, as the governor's older brother tried to clinch the election over then-Vice President Al Gore.
The Democratic officials described the search for information as routine in the case of any nominee to the Supreme Court.
Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, declined to confirm the disclosure. She said that in general, Democrats intend to seek material relating to Roberts' career.
Kerry is not a member of the committee. But he nonetheless injected himself into the debate at the end of a week in which Bush appeared to catch Democrats off guard by picking a court candidate with conservative credentials, yet one with little judicial experience, and thus, little public paper trail. Roberts would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who often provided the decisive vote in split decisions, sometimes siding with conservative justices and sometimes with the liberals.
"The American people should know whether John Roberts will protect their constitutional rights if confirmed as a justice to the court," Kerry said in a statement.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked on ABC earlier this week about providing documents to the Senate, said, "I'm not going to prejudge ... at this juncture what the Senate may request and what information that the executive branch is ultimately going to provide to the Senate."
Roberts sat down with senators in their offices for a third day Friday, making the rounds of those who will sit in judgment of his nomination. He has additional visits scheduled for next week.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said he voted against Roberts in committee for his appeals court seat two years ago partly because he didn't feel the nominee fully answered senators' questions.
"I urged Judge Roberts, as far as he can legally within the canons of ethics, to be forthcoming and honest with his answers," Durbin said after their meeting. "If he is open and honest, I think it will go a long way."
There was upbeat Republican talk after Roberts' meetings with Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and GOP Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
Sessions, whose own nomination to the federal bench was scuttled by Democrats before his election to the Senate, said Roberts "has the very natural qualities to make a superior judge."