Judge Roberts' Paper Trail

U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, left, meets with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in her office on Capitol Hill. Feinstein is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A series of government documents surfaced Tuesday that shed light on U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts's past, present and future.

In response to a lengthy questionnaire given him by the Judiciary Committee, Roberts pledged 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, nearly 100 pages long, provides Roberts' responses to a broad array of questions, including his work history, political ties and views on judicial activism.

The Judiciary Committee also revealed that Roberts is worth $6 million. The 83-page document released Tuesday shows Roberts' home in the fashionable Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Md., is worth $1.3 million. His investment portfolio includes $291,200 in XM Satellite Radio, $264,000 in Dell computers and $106,553 in Texas Instruments.

Roberts earned in excess of $1 million a year with the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson, where he was a partner. He then left for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and a salary of $171,800.

Also, documents released Tuesday by the National Archives showed that Roberts, as a government lawyer in the 1980s, helped coordinate efforts aimed at rebutting criticism that the Reagan administration Justice Department was hostile to civil rights.

"Precedent plays an important role in promoting the stability of the legal system," Roberts answered the questionnaire. "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, the former Republican attorney 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.

Confirmation hearings begin Sept. 6.

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