Since I see everyone and David O. Markus is commenting on Jeffrey Toobin's profile of Chief Justice Roberts, I might as well put my two crappy cents in.
For us civil litigators, here's the part I found interesting:
In one respect, Roberts’s series of prestigious jobs all amounted to doing the same thing for more than twenty years—reading and writing appellate briefs and, later, appellate decisions. During the heart of his career, Roberts’s circle of professional peers consisted entirely of other wealthy and accomplished lawyers.Hey, there's nothing wrong with that!
But here's the larger point:
In private practice and in the first Bush Administration, a substantial portion of his work consisted of representing the interests of corporate defendants who were sued by individuals.More than a substantial portion and more than regular corporate clients -- if you could afford to hire Hogan & Hartson in DC, you are a Fortune 100 company with a serious legal problem.
So in my view Roberts' experience as a lawyer has been exposure to a high-end slice of the overall world of civil litigation, and from a fairly narrow perspective -- that of being in a position to bill substantial hours working for a well-heeled corporate defendant in high-stakes civil litigation. And this is important and valuable.
Still, Roberts has never worked on a contingency case, never represented a poor person who has been victimized, never sued a corporation for a wrongful act, and never had to run a law firm.
Again, there's nothing wrong with that -- many of our better judges had far more limited experience and skill sets than Justice Roberts.
But you can see where Roberts came from in his current interest in antitrust and securities matters, and with rulings like Twombley it's not hard to see where Roberts' heart lies. Would his views be different if he was exposed to a greater variety of civil law perspectives?
Looking over the short list of potential Obama nominees, I don't see anyone on deck who could counterbalance the BigLaw corporate orientation of the Chief Justice in civil matters, but then no one seems to care about civil litigation when it comes to Supreme Court nominees anyways.