Roberts Mum On Federalist Ties

U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, left, meets with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., at her office on Capitol Hill, Monday, July 25, 2005, in Washington.
AP
Supreme Court nominee John Roberts declined Monday to say why he was listed in a leadership directory of the Federalist Society and the White House said he has no recollection of belonging to the conservative group.

The question of Roberts' membership in the society — an influential organization of conservative lawyers and judges formed in the early 1980s to combat what its members said was growing liberalism on the bench — emerged as a vexing issue at the start of another week of meetings for President Bush's nominee on Capitol Hill.

Although no Democrats have publicly threatened to filibuster his nomination, they have said they're concerned that not enough is known about Roberts' personal and legal views. Questions about where he stands on a range of issues, including abortion, likely will be front-line matters at his confirmation hearings later this summer.

Roberts, nominated by Mr. Bush last week to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, was asked by a reporter about the discrepancy during a morning get-acquainted meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

He smiled but didn't reply.

"I don't think he wants to take any questions," Feinstein interjected during the session with photographers and reporters that was part of the meeting in her office with the Supreme Court nominee.

"No, no, no thanks," Roberts added.

Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, reported immediately after his nomination that Roberts had been a member of the Federalist Society. The AP and others printed corrections after the White House said later that Roberts doesn't recall ever belonging to the group.

Feinstein said she didn't ask him about whether he belonged to the Federalist Society. "It's not a dispositive question, in my view," she said. "It would be interesting to know what the answer is because he said he can't remember."

The Washington Post reported Monday that it had obtained from a liberal group a 1997-98 Federalist Society leadership directory listing Roberts, then a partner in a private law firm, as being a steering committee member in the group's Washington chapter.

Roberts has acknowledged participating in Federal Society events and giving speeches for the organization.

But on Monday, presidential press secretary Scott McClellan said, "He doesn't recall ever paying dues or being a member."