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Roberts Tells Congress Judges Must Be ‘Modest’ and Flexible<P>By Sheryl Gay Stolberg 

Roberts Tells Congress Judges
Must Be ‘Modest’ and Flexible

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg 
and David E. Rosenbaum


In his first written response to questions from the lawmakers who will review his nomination to the Supreme Court, Judge John G. Roberts Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that judges must possess “a degree of modesty and humility,” must be respectful of legal precedent and must be willing to change their minds.

The remarks, contained in a brief essay on judicial activism, expand on private conversations Roberts has had with senators, in which he has said he places a high emphasis on “modesty” and “stability.” The essay, which provides the public the first glimpse of Roberts’ philosophy in his own words, was part of his response to a wide-ranging questionnaire the Senate Judiciary Committee sent him a week ago. In it, the nominee seeks to cast himself as a proponent of judicial restraint — a quality prized by senators at a time when conservative critics of the judiciary are bemoaning activist judges.

“Judges must be constantly aware that their role, while important, is limited,” Roberts writes. “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.”

The 10-page questionnaire yielded 83 pages of response from Roberts. It included information about his financial assets and net worth — nearly $5.3 million, including a stock portfolio worth more than $1.6 million — his work during Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 election in President Bush’s favor, and his membership, or lack thereof, in the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

It also included fresh details about the White House interview process that led to Roberts’ nomination after the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Roberts said it began April 1 when Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales interviewed him for a potential Supreme Court vacancy. At that time the administration had expected that the first opening on the court would come when the ailing chief justice, William H. Rehnquist, stepped down.

That interview was followed by a second, on May 3, with an especially high-powered cast of characters: Vice President Dick Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr.; Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political strategist; Harriet Miers, the White House legal counsel; and Gonzales.