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Reporters Committee releases summary of Roberts' free press cases

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  1. Freedom of Information
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has prepared a summary of the First Amendment and media-related cases handled…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has prepared a summary of the First Amendment and media-related cases handled by U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.

“The Reporters Committee continues its tradition of preparing summaries of media-related cases in the portfolio of Supreme Court nominees,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “We hope newsrooms and media litigators find this summary a useful tool in the days leading to Judge Roberts’ confirmation hearing.”

It is not easy to discern Judge Roberts’ thoughts on First Amendment, free press and freedom of information issues, the summary concludes. This confusion stems mainly from the fact that so much of his writing was done in the service of clients, most notably the U.S. government. During the first Bush administration, he served as deputy solicitor general. The solicitor general, who answers to the attorney general, is responsible for litigating U.S. Supreme Court cases on behalf of the federal government.

But Roberts’ position of the last two years as a judge on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., has given him an opportunity to speak in his own voice, although only a few of the more than 40 opinions he authored touch on media issues.

As deputy attorney general during George H.W. Bush’s administration, Roberts became very familiar with Freedom of Information issues, which are litigated by the Department of Justice, according to a Justice Department attorney.

Still, Roberts’ collected works leave cause for concern among free press advocates. One of the early briefs he coauthored at the Solicitor General’s office, in urging the Court to deny review of a prior restraint against CNN, argued, “The critical point is that the First Amendment is part of the rule of law, not above it.” And a decision he wrote earlier this year stripped newsletter publishers of an attorney fees award because, he held, the government was justified in defending a rule requiring the publishers to register as commodities traders.

The complete summary of the nominee’s record can be found at: https://www.rcfp.org/news/documents/20050721-robertsrec.html