Some Documents of Supreme Court Choice Will Be Released
Carol T. Powers for The New York Times
Judge John G. Roberts, never alone, in the office of Senator John Cornyn on Monday as he continued to meet with legislators.
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON, SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and JOHN M. BRODER
Published: July 26, 2005
This article is by Richard W. Stevenson, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and John M. Broder.
WASHINGTON, July 25 - The Bush administration plans to release documents from Judge John G. Roberts's tenure in the White House counsel's office in the mid-1980's and his earlier job working for the attorney general, but will not make public papers covering the four years he spent as principal deputy solicitor general starting in 1989, two senior administration officials said Monday.
The decision fulfilled a request for disclosure of the documents made on Monday by Senator Arlen Specter
of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which will hold the confirmation hearings for Judge Roberts, President Bush's choice to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, said the senator's spokesman, Bill Reynolds.
But it falls short of the disclosure sought by Democrats, who have been demanding access to files from the nominee's work in the solicitor general's office at the Justice Department from 1989 to 1993, under the first President George Bush. Democrats say those files could shed light on the nominee's thinking about issues that could come before the court, and are especially important because Judge Roberts has not produced much of a paper trail when it comes to issues like abortion. Mr. Specter did not seek access to the papers from Judge Roberts's work as deputy solicitor general, Mr. Reynolds said.
The administration officials said the White House would work with the National Archives and the Ronald Reagan
Presidential Library to expedite processing of roughly 50,000 pages of documents from 1982 to 1986, when Judge Roberts was an assistant counsel in the Reagan White House. About 4,000 pages of documents from that period have already been made public, but those have not included papers pertaining to Judge Roberts's work on a broad array of topics including the Iran-contra scandal, school prayer and civil rights issues.
The officials said the administration had decided to waive any claim to attorney-client privilege from those documents because the papers are covered by the Presidential Records Act, the law that governs the disposition of presidential papers. The administration's position, one of the officials said, is that there is a "presumption of disclosure" when it comes to documents covered by the act. Under the law, the current White House has final say over what presidential documents are made public.
One of the officials, both of whom sought anonymity to speak candidly about a decision that had not yet been made public, said the White House had reviewed some of the papers from Judge Roberts's work in the counsel's office and saw nothing in them that could create problems for his confirmation.
"We don't have concerns," the official said.
The administration officials said the White House's intention was for all the documents from Judge Roberts's time in the counsel's office, except those held back for reasons of national security or personal privacy, to be released in time for the Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings, which are expected to start in early September.
Mike Duggan, the supervisory archivist at the Reagan library, where the documents are housed, said it would take about three weeks to process all the documents if the library's staff worked on nothing else.
The officials said the documents from 1981 and 1982, when Judge Roberts worked as a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith, would be released by the National Archives on Tuesday. Those documents had been cleared for public release by the Clinton administration when they were moved to the National Archives in 1998, the officials said.
But the officials said the administration felt it would be wrong to release the papers from Judge Roberts's work as the No. 2 person in the solicitor general's office under Kenneth W. Starr. Those papers, which are not covered by the Presidential Records Act, record "sensitive, deliberative, confidential" conversations among administration lawyers in developing legal cases for argument before the Supreme Court and therefore should not be released publicly, one of the officials said.
"What has been demonstrated here is that this administration is working as hard as it can to make as much available as possible to the Judiciary Committee," the official said
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