Rowe added that those on the Law Review always thought of Roberts as fair, especially on politically divisive issues. “There was a certain amount of left versus right, but John was someone that everyone could talk to and respected.”
“I never thought of him as an ideologue,” Lindsay A. Connor, who was also on Law Review with Roberts, wrote in an e-mail. But Connor said that he has not seen Roberts in more than 25 years and does not know how Roberts has changed.
Other colleagues from the Law Review, however, remembered Roberts as clearly on the conservative side of the spectrum.
Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law David B. Wilkins ’77 said that Roberts was “more conservative than typical Harvard Law student in the 1970s.” However, Wilkins was quick to point out that today’s political climate is very different from that of the mid-seventies, noting that “90 percent of the Harvard Law School class is more conservative than the typical Harvard Law student in the 1970s.”
After graduating from HLS, Roberts headed inside the beltway. He clerked for William H. Rehnquist, who was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court at the time. Following his clerkship, Roberts went on to work in the offices of the Attorney General and the White House Counsel. He also served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General under Kenneth W. Starr in the first Bush Administration.
In between stints with the government, Roberts worked at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, where he established himself as a top appellate lawyer with an impressive record—he has argued a total of 39 cases before the Supreme Court, winning 25 of them.
Roberts’ record in Washington impressed President George W. Bush, who nominated him to the D.C. Circuit Court in January 2003—Roberts’ third nomination to the Court. (Both Bushes had nominated him once before, though those nods had stalled before Roberts could be brought for a vote.) Roberts was confirmed 4 months later.
The confirmation process produced a wealth of glowing recommendations. He received the rating of “Well Qualified” without reservation from the American Bar Association, the highest possible mark for a jurist.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was also sent a letter by a bipartisan group of 156 members of the D.C. Bar, all of whom urged Roberts’s swift confirmation. “He is one of the very best and most highly respected appellate lawyers in the nation, with a deserved reputation as a brilliant writer and oral advocate” the letter said. “He is also a wonderful professional colleague both because of his enormous skills and because of his unquestioned integrity and fair-mindedness.”
Walter E. Dellinger III, who served as solicitor general under former President Bill Clinton, even told the Judiciary Committee that, “In my view . . . there is no better appellate advocate than John Roberts.”
On the D.C. Circuit, Roberts has maintained his conservative reputation, although he has yet to weigh in on many of the divisive issues that come before the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, he is considered to be conservative enough for Bush. As Deputy Solicitor General, he wrote an oft-quoted brief on behalf of the administration that said that “we continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”
Many in Washington speculate that Roberts may be a good choice if Bush wants to avoid a confirmation fight. The New York Times reported last week that members of both parties raised Roberts’ name in a favorable light.
THE IMMIGRANTS’ SON