Federal appellate judge John Roberts is expected to be confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate today as Chief Justice of the United States, just a few days before the Supreme Court’s 2005-6 term begins next Monday. President Bush then will nominate a candidate to succeed retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
During his confirmation hearings, Roberts was asked few questions about criminal justice issues. In his blog Sentencing Law and Policy, Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman cited a Wall Street Journal article that asserted that in a written Q&A, Roberts had “cast doubt on a 1958 Supreme Court precedent that underpins recent rulings finding the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded to be unconstitutional.” Berman described the Roberts statement as “pretty milquetoast.” Berman links to questions from Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) about criminal sentencing, mandatory minimums, and the death penalty. Berman says that Roberts “largely avoid answering the toughest questions and simply restates existing [Supreme Court] precedent in response to others.”