While stopping short of announcing his opposition to the appointment, the Vermont Democrat's written statement Tuesday was by far the most critical he has made since President Bush nominated Roberts.
Despite Leahy's harsh words, Roberts received a "well qualified" rating from the American Bar Association on Wednesday, clearing another hurdle in his path to the nation's highest court.
A 15-member ABA committee handled the work, including a review of opinions and legal briefs, and voted that Roberts was well qualified to be a justice. ABA spokeswoman Nancy Slonim said the vote was unanimous.
Leahy, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary, fired his broadside one day after the release of 5,000 pages of Reagan-era records. Leahy said Roberts' views were "among the most radical being offered by a cadre intent on reversing decades of policies on civil rights, voting rights, women's rights, privacy and access to justice."
White House spokesman Steve Schmidt said Leahy's remarks were part of a Democratic strategy — predating Roberts' nomination — of trying to depict Bush's nominees as ideologically extreme.
"The ease with which Sen. Leahy distorts Judge Roberts' record is troubling and may indicate that the Democrats are not yet done trying to make that argument, although it has already been discredited," Schmidt said.
Leahy and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., both expressed concern about documents that were not released Monday, asking for investigations into a few that were reported missing.
Nearly 500 were kept private in their entirety on grounds of national security or privacy, according to Allen Weinstein, head of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Additionally, a folder of material relating to affirmative action was misplaced by library officials after being reviewed by administration officials, Weinstein wrote. He said he believed the material had been reconstructed without the originals and made public.