Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, like Sandra Day O’Connor, is polished and popular, with a warm plainspoken style and surprising pluck.
When it comes to substance, however, the two have differences that will nudge the divided court to the right if, as expected, Roberts is confirmed to succeed the retiring O’Connor.
The differences have been illuminated in thousands of pages of documents from Roberts’ time as a lawyer in the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration and as a federal appeals court judge. They reveal a man likely to fall in line with his mentor, conservative Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, more often than O’Connor did during her 24 years on the court.
Although Rehnquist and O’Connor agreed on about three-fourths of the court’s cases, they parted company on some of the hottest issues. With O’Connor’s departure, the court is divided 4-4 on abortion restrictions, campaign finance limits, discrimination laws, and religion.
Roberts will be questioned next week at his Senate confirmation hearing about those matters and others. Until then, his previous work provides the main insight into where he will stand on issues before the court.