Center for American Progress

Friendly Fire: How John Roberts Differs from His Hero and Mentor

Since his nomination to the Supreme Court, John Roberts’ supporters have tried to cloak him in the robes of the judge for whom he first clerked: the legendary Henry Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. David Leitch, a former Bush deputy counsel and Roberts’ law partner, told Newsweek that Roberts speaks of Friendly with “deep reverence” and “a certain twinkle in his eye.” Richard Lazarus, Roberts’ old roommate and a Democrat who now teaches at Georgetown, has said that Roberts “had deep respect for [Friendly’s] intellect and approach to the law.” And Stephen Barnett—another former Friendly clerk and deputy solicitor general—predicted that Roberts would drift toward Supreme Court moderate Stephen Breyer “as a conservative case-by-case pragmatist in the common-law mold, like Henry Friendly.” Each invocation of the brilliant and principled Republican judge suggests that Roberts could become the same.

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