Roberts Bait-and-Switch

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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.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

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As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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