Roberts: Writings Reveal Opposition to the Right to Privacy and Civil Rights

Recently released documents by the National Archives have exposed an even more troubling, right-wing John Roberts. During his role as special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith for the Reagan administration, Roberts not only wrote in opposition to the right to privacy but also to crucial civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In a summary for Smith of a 1981 lecture by then-Solicitor General Erwin N. Griswold, Roberts wrote that Griswold “devotes a section to the so-called ‘right to privacy,’ arguing as we have that such an amorphous right is not to be found in the Constitution. He specifically criticizes Roe v. Wade,” according to the Washington Post. In an article on judicial restraint drafted for the American Bar Association journal under the name of then-Attorney General William French Smith, Roberts’ boss at the time, Roberts used the right to privacy as an example, calling the right to privacy an “abstraction” and saying courts could not “arbitrarily elevate it over other constitutional rights and powers by attaching the label ‘fundamental,’ and then resort to it as, in the words of one of Justice Black’s dissents [in Griswold v. Connecticut], “a loose, flexible, uncontrolled standard for holding laws unconstitutional…The broad range of rights which are now alleged to be “fundamental” by litigants, with only the most tenuous connection to the Constitution, bears ample witness to the dangers of this doctrine.” Griswold v. Connecticut was the 1965 Supreme Court case that legalized contraception for married couples.

Also during his work for the Reagan administration, Roberts wrote a series of memos and drafted op-ed articles and talking points in opposition to the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. Roberts called the new provisions, which were intended to make it easier to prove violations of the law, “a quota system for electoral politics,” according to the New York Times.

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The New York Times 8/3/05, 8/4/05; Associated Press 8/3/05; The Washington Post, 8/4/05, Roberts draft article on judicial restraint (undated)

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