Roberts vows to respect established legal rulings

Associated Press
Published August 3, 2005

WASHINGTON - John Roberts pledged Tuesday to respect established rulings if confirmed to the Supreme Court, saying judges must recognize that their role is "not to solve society's problems."

The questionnaire, numbering nearly 100 pages and released by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, provides Roberts' responses to a broad array of questions, including his work history, political ties and views on judicial activism.

"Precedent plays an important role in promoting the stability of the legal system," Roberts wrote. "A sound judicial philosophy should reflect recognition of the fact that the judge operates within a system of rules developed over the years by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath."

At the same time, he said that "judges must be constantly aware that their role, while important, is limited."

"They do not have a commission to solve society's problems, as they see them, but simply to decide cases before them according to the rule of law," Roberts stated.

His views on the subject are considered critical to gauging his position on overturning the 1973 landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion decision, a stance supported by at least three conservative members on the court.

In the questionnaire, Roberts also writes that he does not recall ever being a member of the conservative Federalist Society, although he participated in events including a 1993 panel and gave a luncheon speech to the legal group in 2003.

Detailing his political ties, Roberts said he spent about a week assisting Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the disputed presidential election count in 2000.

He said he went to Florida at the request of GOP lawyers, assisting an attorney who was preparing arguments for the Florida Supreme Court and at one point meeting the governor, President Bush's younger brother, to discuss the legal issues "in a general way."

Academy general dropped from promotions list

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - The No. 2 officer at the Air Force Academy, a born-again Christian accused of proselytizing at the school in memos and speeches, was dropped from a promotions list before it was approved by the Senate.

Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida's name was pulled from the list before the Senate voted Friday to award 21 Air Force generals a second star, Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Stephens in Washington said Tuesday.

Commandant of Cadets Weida, a 1978 academy graduate, had been nominated May 9 for promotion to major general.

The Air Force Inspector General's Office cleared Weida in June of six of seven allegations that he improperly shared his faith, saying he did nothing wrong. That included his June 2003 "guidance" to cadets telling them they are "accountable first to your God." He also urged cadets and staff members to pray.

Train strikes dump truck and derails, killing two

RALEIGH, N.C. - An Amtrak passenger train struck a dump truck and derailed Tuesday, killing two people, after the truck's driver apparently drove around a lowered crossing gate, police said.

Witnesses reported the gate and a light at the crossing were working before the truck, loaded with gravel, drove onto the tracks, said police spokesman Jim Sughrue.

There were no serious injuries among the 180 passengers and crew members on the train, he said.

The collision, which happened around 12:35 p.m., knocked the train's engine and four of its seven cars off the tracks though they remained upright, said assistant fire Chief Bryant Woodall.

The upended dump truck came to rest nearby with its cab and rear axle separated from the cargo box.

Killed were the truck's driver, Chris McCullough, 34, of Garner, and passenger Keith Spence, 33, of Raleigh.

Fourteen Amtrak passengers with minor injuries were taken to a hospital, Woodall said.