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John Roberts on Families & Children

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. George W. Bush 2005)


His kids' adoption records explored in confirmation hearing

The Roberts confirmation was not a walk in the park. The New York Times went about obtaining adoption records. No one had ever suggested that the Judge and Jane Roberts had done anything inappropriate relative to his children's adoption. There were no charges of "line jumping" or use of influence. This was a pure fishing expedition, and my worst fears were that the real goal was for the Times to track down the birth mothers and do some kind of "feature story" on them, revolving around how they felt seeing the children they gave up years ago now on television.

In the entire time I worked with him, Judge John Roberts let all the criticism and nasty quotations about him roll off his back, but the prospect of a major paper invading the privacy of his children's adoption records understandably bothered him.

"I promise you this: We will protect your family. I don't want you to worry about this anymore." It's not a promise I made lightly, and I was honor bound to keep it.

Source: Winning Right, by Ed Gillespie, p.198-199 , Sep 5, 2006

1st Amendment doesn't apply to vague restrictions.

Justice Roberts joined the concurrence on BROWN v. ENTERTAINMENT MERCHANTS on Jun 27, 2011:

A California law imposed $1000 civil fines on persons who sold or rented to minors "violent video games." The video game industry sued to prevent enforcement of the law.

HELD: Delivered by SCALIA; joined by KENNEDY, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN

Video games are a form of speech and are subject to protection under the First Amendment because it has proved difficult to distinguish between politics and entertainment. Games communicate ideas through literary devices. A well defined constitutional tradition is that restrictions based on the content of speech are permitted only in only a few areas, such as obscenity, incitement to violence, or uttering fighting words. Depictions of violence are not within this tradition. California has not chosen to restrict those other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, therefore California's law is underinclusive, suggesting that it disfavors a particular speaker or viewpoint.

CONCURRED: ALITO concurs in judgment; joined by ROBERTS

The California law should have been struck down on due process grounds as "vague": It lacked sufficiently narrow definition of "violent video game" so that a retailer would be put on notice. The Court should not have resorted to the First Amendment and should have been far more careful and moved with more deliberation in evaluating a new technology, since the future may find participating in a video game is actually different from watching movie.

DISSENT: THOMAS dissents

The Founders would not have seen any right to speak to a minor other than through his parents, which is what the California law permits.

DISSENT: BREYER dissents

The California law withstands other First Amendment's strict scrutiny.
Source: Supreme Court case 11-BROWN argued on Nov 2, 2010

Other Justices on Families & Children: John Roberts on other issues:
Samuel Alito
Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Anthony Kennedy
John Roberts
Antonin Scalia
Sonia Sotomayor
Clarence Thomas

Former Justices:
David Souter
Sandra Day O'Connor
William Rehnquist
John Paul Stevens

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Page last updated: Jul 13, 2015