Roberts Set Out Doubts On Genocide Treaty

Researcher Ray Wilson at the Ronald Reagan library in Simi Valley, Calif., examines some Reagan-era documents relating to John G. Roberts Jr.
Researcher Ray Wilson at the Ronald Reagan library in Simi Valley, Calif., examines some Reagan-era documents relating to John G. Roberts Jr. (By Nick Ut -- Associated Press)
By Amy Argetsinger and Jo Becker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 3, 2005

Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. once expressed some agreement with conservatives who opposed entering an international anti-genocide treaty, saying that foreign governments might try to use it to prosecute the United States for its military actions overseas.

But Roberts, then a young White House lawyer, ultimately urged President Ronald Reagan to sign it, arguing that to do otherwise would be a public-relations embarrassment on the world stage.

His arguments -- which could provide fodder for Democrats pressing for more clarity on the nominee's views on U.S. obligations toward international law -- were outlined in a memo that was among 18,000 pages of White House records released yesterday by the National Archives.

The documents, which come on top of tens of thousands of pages already released from Roberts's files, are probably the last that will be made public before the start of his confirmation hearings Tuesday.

The papers include insights into his thinking on a variety of issues -- including the insanity defense, the invasion of Grenada, international trade and the spraying of herbicides on marijuana crops.

A witness list released yesterday by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary signaled their intent to focus the hearings on the civil rights record of Roberts, who was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit two years ago. Like the administration he served in the 1980s, Roberts was a staunch opponent of affirmative action, generally took a narrow view of civil rights laws and fought efforts to expand anti-discrimination protections.

Among the witnesses the Democrats will call during the four days of scheduled hearings are several civil rights leaders, including the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Democrats also plan to call witnesses who have advocated for the rights of the disabled and women.

Carol M. Browner, the Environmental Protection Agency head under President Bill Clinton, will testify, as will a representative from Planned Parenthood, an abortion rights group and former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who has advocated for the release of memos from Roberts's post as principal deputy solicitor general under the George H.W. Bush administration. The White House, citing attorney-client privilege, has refused Democratic requests to release the documents.

Also yesterday, the AFL-CIO wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) expressing "grave concerns" about Roberts. Citing Roberts's record on civil rights and other issues, President John J. Sweeney urged committee members to engage in "vigorous and extensive questioning" of Roberts.

But to the disappointment of some Democrats, the union federation did not explicitly oppose his nomination, which has won support from the business community in the form of an endorsement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Yesterday's document release, which included some duplicative material, came after National Archives staff realized many of Roberts's papers had been filed under a previously unknown coding system.

Roberts's Sept. 4, 1984, memo on the Genocide Convention could draw the interest of Democrats, who have already put him on notice that they intend to question him on the Bush administration's approach to terrorism.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company