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John Roberts, Chief Justice?

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Don’t get me wrong, I think that Roberts seems like the type of guy who would be a better Chief Justice than the other highly partisan members of SCOTUS, but does anybody else think it’s a little too early for this?

Also, this sets up a situation where the Democrats will have to demand more out of Roberts. This appointment demands higher scrutiny now, since Roberts will essentially become the most powerful judge in the free world.

Here’s what the Chief Justice faces in his new job. From the Washington Post:

Although the chief justice has no more votes than his eight brethren, he presides over their conferences, sets the initial agenda for considering cases and, when in the majority, assigns which justice will write a ruling, defining the extent of its reach. He also wields a variety of administrative and policy powers not only over the high court but the broader federal judiciary and has a number of unique responsibilities, such as presiding over presidential impeachment trials and appointing the court that reviews secret wiretaps by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Most chief justices have been appointed from outside the Supreme Court, but in the past century they typically had long tenures on lower courts or had served as governors, Cabinet secretaries or, in one case, president. With just two years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Roberts boasts no such credential and would be much younger than the colleagues he would lead. Three and a half decades his senior, Stevens, 85, was already a justice when Roberts was an undergraduate at Harvard University.

He’ll also be the youngest in a long, long, long time.

The move could ensure Bush’s influence on the judiciary long after his presidency ends. In the past half-century, only two other presidents have had the opportunity to name a chief justice to a lifetime appointment. A former Rehnquist clerk, Roberts shares a philosophical outlook with the man he would succeed and, at age 50, would be the youngest chief justice since John Marshall was appointed in 1801, potentially giving him decades to shape the court’s direction.

So what do the Democrats say about John Roberts?

Senate Democrats signaled that they would press the White House again to release more documents that might shed light on his thinking about divisive issues likely to come before the court. They have been seeking, unsuccessfully, the release of documents from the four years he spent as principal deputy solicitor general under the first President Bush, when he helped argue the government’s position on civil rights issues and other topics of intense interest to liberal groups.

A CBS News poll released Monday found that 57 percent of Americans believed that the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee’s positions on the issues as well as his or her legal qualifications. That was up from 46 percent last month.

“Now that the president has said he will nominate Judge Roberts as chief justice, the stakes are higher and the Senate’s advice and consent responsibility is even more important,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

In what amounted to a warning to the White House not to select too conservative a nominee for Justice O’Connor’s seat, Mr. Reid also urged Mr. Bush to take into account Justice O’Connor’s role as what he called “a voice of moderation and reason on the court” in selecting a replacement.

Let the “fun” begin.

(Also, more from CNN and the AP; HT: memeorandum)