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Impeach John Roberts for Lying to Congress

By       Message Hugh Conrad     Permalink
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Lying to Congress is forbidden by Title 18, Chapter 47, Section 1001 of the U.S. Code. It states that "whoever willfully (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation" to Congress shall be fined or imprisoned ...

When he was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing to be Chief Justice of the United States in 2005, John G. Roberts, Jr. said that he came "before this committee with no agenda, no platform. I will approach every case with an open mind."

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Roberts even used a sports metaphor to explain his role. ""Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire."

Roberts' tenure on the court shows that he is trying to rewrite the rulebook, not apply the rules established by the Founding Fathers or the Congress. He is effectively making the laws, not determining that "everybody plays by the rules." His role has been aggressive, not "a limited role." His decisions are not predicated upon justice, but upon hardened ideology. His words in those hearings distorted what he planned to do because they were a blatant lie -- and he knew it.

Roberts' record now reflects that deception, as the late Sen. Edward Kennedy said in an American Prospect article two years ago. Kennedy wrote that Roberts effectively lied to the committee with those words and others. "As we enter the third year of the lifetime appointments of Roberts and (Samuel) Alito to the Court, it is clear that their approach to judging mocks the commitment to open-mindedness, modesty, and compassion that they professed during their confirmation hearings. President Bush had openly expressed his desire to select judges who would satisfy the most radical voices in his political base. We now know that the president got exactly what he wanted."

Majority leader Sen. Harry Reid was even more blunt last March in his assessment of Roberts' performance on the court. According to an Associated Press story, Reid said that Roberts had lied to the Senate during his confirmation hearings by pretending to be a moderate -- and that the United States "is now stuck with him as chief justice." The Majority Leader said, "Roberts didn't tell us the truth. At least (Samuel) Alito told us who he was. But we're stuck with those two young men, and we'll try to change by having some moderates in the federal courts system as time goes on-- I think that will happen."

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Roberts should be impeached for lying to Congress. Roberts' deceit has angered many on the left and those in the philosophical center, along with those on the right who care for honesty and justice.

However, the American people are not "stuck" with Roberts. In fact, when an American officeholder lies to Congress, the Constitution provides a legal remedy. That person can be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried before the U.S. Senate in which Reid leads the majority (Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a sexual liaison).

The chief justice has not respected precedent as he said he would in those hearings. In fact, he has legislated from the bench as he did last week, something that he decried when discussing previous courts, like that of Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s and 1960s.The essence of this crime is that Roberts said that he would follow precedent, a process known as stare decisis. However, he has flouted it and has become one of the most activist justices in American History in striking down previously-established legal precedents. His actions in the aggregate now rise to the level of criminal behavior.

Stare decisis is a common-law doctrine under which courts adhere to precedent on questions of law in order to ensure certainty, consistency, and stability in the administration of justice. In last week's lamentable case entitled Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, Roberts and his right-wing allies created a new constitutional right: corporately-purchased freedom of speech. That is one of the most radical assertions in American jurisprudence, espousing a right that no jurist has stated as law in the 221 years of our jurisprudence.

Roberts' action should not have been a surprise. As legal analyst and attorney Jeffrey Tobin noted in a piece about him in last year's New Yorker entitled "No More Mr. Nice Guy," Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe said that Roberts is not even remotely close to a moderate. "The Chief Justice talks the talk of moderation while walking the walk of extreme conservatism."

Extreme conservatism is not an impeachable offense. Lying to Congress is.

It is time for the U.S. House of Representatives to draft articles of impeachment against Roberts for lying to Congress during his confirmation hearing.

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Democrats should undertake this action in memory of Sen. Kennedy. The late Massachusetts senator derailed President Reagan's nomination of another right-wing extremist, Robert Bork, to the Supreme Court in 1987 by using these words: "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizen's doors in midnight raids, and children could not be taught about evolution."

This should be the message of the American people: "John Roberts' America is a land in which black Americans playing in the Super Bowl would sleep in airport terminals instead of Miami hotels because segregation is not a violation of the Constitution, a land in which child labor would be legal because outlawing it would be a violation of a corporation's First Amendment freedom of expression, a land in which only men could vote because the 19th Amendment was unconstitutional, a land in which black golfers would not be permitted to play in the Masters because segregation at a private golf course should be permitted, a land in which a corporation has individual rights but people seeking privacy against illegal intrusions by the government should be denied that right, and a land in which women will be forced once again into back-alley abortions because Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional."

No precedent is safe under Roberts.

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Hugh Conrad lives in Western Pennsylvania and is a person who fervently believes in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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