Roberts Bait-and-Switch

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The front page of the Los Angeles Times breathlessly reports: “Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. worked behind the scenes for gay rights activists, and his legal expertise helped them persuade the Supreme Court to issue a landmark 1996 ruling protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation.”

Oh my, so maybe Roberts isn’t such a run-of-the-mill right-winger after all, eh?

Wrong.

Reading the story closely, it becomes clear that Roberts himself didn’t take up this case, nor did he act as chief litigator. His firm, Hogan & Hartson, took up the case pro bono, and the firm “expected” its employees to pitch in from time to time. A colleague in need of assistance approached Roberts, because he was the guy who knew what sort of arguments would best appeal to a relatively conservative Supreme Court. And Roberts, quite naturally, helped out, and did a very professional job of it, because he’s an extremely smart lawyer. Nor does it seem so unlikely that he would have forgotten to mention a decade-old case for which he provided incidental help. The whole ordeal seems perfectly ordinary, and doesn’t provide any indication that Roberts might somehow cast a friendly eye on gay rights as a sitting justice on the Supreme Court. In all likelihood, he won’t. So to answer Kevin Drum’s question, some liberal muckraker probably floated this story to the Times to roil up a bit of discontent with Roberts among the religious right. If they take the bait, good, but liberal opponents of Roberts really shouldn’t get their hopes up.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate