Tussle Over Roberts' Documents
A police officer wrestles with the hand of an NATO protestor who refused to let go of her bicycle, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the NATO summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) / John Minchillo
Senate Democrats said they were disappointed with the decision and hoped the Bush White House would change its mind when the Judiciary Committee decides what paperwork it needs.
"If the White House announcement is intended to begin a dialogue about documents, I welcome it," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Judiciary Democrat. "If it is intended to unilaterally pre-empt a discussion about documents the Senate may need and is entitled to, then this is a regrettable beginning."
Amid the wrangling over Judge Roberts' private papers, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said that if he can't get an agreement for a final confirmation vote before September 29, he may start hearings during the last week of August. That would interrupt the Senate's traditional monthlong summer vacation.
CBS News Producer Mary Hager reports that Sen. Specter, R-Pa., wants assurances from the Democrats that the committee can vote on the nomination by that date so that Roberts can be sworn in and seated for the start of the court session, which starts October 3.
Hager reports that Sen. Harry Reid, D.-Nev., does not want to rush the process and that the ordinary procedure is to allow the committee time to do its work. He said that if the committee is only allowed to see the documents "we've seen in the New York Times and Washington Post, I think we need a little more than that."
The administration will release papers from Roberts' work in the Reagan administration but it will withhold files from his tenure as deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration will release more than 75,000 documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee, reports CBS Correspondent Peter Maer. "What we are providing goes above and beyond what a reasonable person would expect to be made available," McClellan said.
McClellan contends the documents are "more than sufficient for members of the Senate to do their job."
But he said the withheld files were part of "attorney-client privilege and a confidential deliberative process" when Roberts worked for then-Solicitor General Kenneth Starr.
Leahy had said earlier that material written in confidence while serving in an administration has been provided in the past — for instance by Reagan when he nominated William H. Rehnquist for chief justice.
"It is far too early to know whether the committee will need those documents and I hope the White House will keep an open mind on document requests," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Judiciary Committee.
"The Senate should see all relevant material related to Judge Roberts' nomination. We trust that members of the Judiciary Committee and the White House will work out a way for the Senate to review this material," said Rebecca Kirszner, spokeswoman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
But McClellan said that providing such documents would violate attorney-client privilege and have a chilling effect on the decision-making process in the solicitor general's office.
"Democratic and Republican solicitor generals have said that to make that information available would really stifle their ability to have a candid and independent and honest assessment from attorneys in their office," he said. "These future solicitor generals might as well put up a sign that says `do not apply' if you are thinking about going through a Senate confirmation process."
Attorney-client privilege allows communications between lawyers and the people they represent to remain confidential. Executive privilege is the right claimed by presidents to decline some requests, including for production of documents, from Congress and the courts, based on the Constitution's separation of powers.
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