The Business Case for John Roberts

By August 23, 2005Judicial Nominations

Judicial NominationsEarlier this month, the NAM became the first business group to endorse the nomination of judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court. This was done by our Judicial Review Committee (JRC), a group of General Counsels and top executives from manufacturing companies.

We have fielded hundreds of calls from reporters, all beginning with one central question: “What in the heck is the NAM doing mucking around in Supreme Court nominations?” After all, in their view, this is the sole province of the groups arrayed around the various social issues. What on earth do we care about social issues?


In short, nothing.

Our Judicial Review Committee — empaneled before Justice O’Connor announced her resignation — started by developing some criteria. Significantly, they were not results- or outcome-based. You can click here and see them for yourself.(There might be other groups with published criteria, but we’ve not seen any just yet.) Instead, they focus on things like judicial temperament, his propensity for applying the law as written and his appreciation for the courts’ impact on business and commerce. Evaluating Judge Roberts by these criteria, his endorsement by the JRC was unanimous.

So, back to the question at hand: Why on earth do we care?

— As NAM President John Engler said at the press conference announcing our endorsement, we spend a lot of time on the other two branches but not on the third — unless you count being a defendant;

— Hard-fought gains in the first two branches — the Congress and the Administration — can be lost in the third branch;

— Over 80% of a Federal judge’s caseload concerns issues with a direct impact on manufacturers, like contract law, employment law, regulator issues and property rights. Here’s a link to a one-pager about why we care who’s on the federal bench.

Usually at about this point in the conversation, almost every reporter has asked, “Why on earth hasn’t business been involved before now?!?” A tougher question for which we have no immediate answer.

One more thing: there is an inverse correlation between predictability of the courts and litigation. That is, the more predictable a court is, the less litigation you have. For every manufacturer, for every business, this is a laudable goal, one we push toward every day. It is our view that Judge Roberts will bring that predictability that the Court needs. In the process, the climate for business will get just a little better.

As the old joke goes, “What do you call a busload of trial lawyers going over a cliff?”

A good start.

With the endorsement of Judge Roberts, we’ve made a good start.