Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Remember the story from just yesterday about Senator Durbin asking Judge Roberts about possible conflicts between his faith and any rulings he might have to make as a justice? Well, things are growing murkier. This is what Jonathan Turley wrote about it yesterday in the Los Angeles Times.
The exchange occurred during one of Roberts' informal discussions with senators last week. According to two people who attended the meeting, Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral.

....Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.
The New York Times goes a bit farther in describing Turley's description of this conversation.
Professor Turley cited unnamed sources saying that Judge Roberts had told Mr. Durbin he would recuse himself from cases involving abortion, the death penalty or other subjects where Catholic teaching and civil law can clash.
Doesn't that seem a bit different than how Turley described the conversation? Maybe I'm splitting a few hairs here, but the question did not specifically address abortion or the death penalty. I guess I would need the advice of a Catholic theologian to express what the Church would recommend to a Catholic judge. But this just smacks of some sort of religious test for public office which the Constitution specifically forbids. The interest groups on both sides are all geared up to fight over Judge Roberts religious. It is a shame to see senators playing into that.

No wonder that there seems some doubt as to whether this conversation actually took place. We have Turley's two anonymous sources, but two senators disagree according the Times.
A spokesman for Mr. Durbin and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who spoke to Judge Roberts on Monday about the meeting, said Professor Turley's account of a recusal statement was inaccurate.

But in an interview last night, Professor Turley said Mr. Durbin himself had described the conversation to him on Sunday morning, including the statement about recusal.
So whom are we to believe: Dick Durbin or Dick Durbin?

UPDATE: The ever-informative Gerry Daly points me to the account of this story in the Washington Times. First we have the same quotes from the Turley piece. Next we have the denials.
"Jonathan Turley's column is not accurate," Durbin press secretary Joe Shoemaker said, adding that his boss never asked that question and Judge Roberts never said he would recuse himself in such a case.
"Judge Roberts said repeatedly that he would follow the rule of law," Mr. Shoemaker said.
Note that name, Joe Shoemaker. Because guess who Mr. Turley says leaked the story to him? You got it.
Disagreement also came on who leaked the exchange.
"I don't know who was his source," Mr. Shoemaker said. "Whoever the source was either got it wrong or Jonathan Turley got it wrong."
Mr. Turley, contacted by The Washington Times yesterday, said his sources were Mr. Durbin and Mr. Shoemaker.
According to Mr. Turley, he met Mr. Durbin in NBC's makeup room Sunday between the senator's appearance on "Meet the Press" and Mr. Turley's appearance on another program. According to the professor, Mr. Durbin told him the story while Mr. Turley took notes, adding that he called Mr. Shoemaker and read back his account of the meeting "word for word."
"I specifically confirmed Senator Durbin's account with his press secretary," Mr. Turley said.
I think Mr. Turley sounds a bit ticked off. He was willing to talk about two anonymous sources in his first column, but perhaps he got rather angry at being called a liar by the very two people who were his two sources. Brit Hume likes to refer to Turley as "our favorite law professor." I wonder if Brit will have Turley on to talk some more about Durbin and Roberts' beliefs tonight. Just making a prediction for tonight's show.

Let me rephrase my question. Whom are we to disbelieve: Dick Durbin or Dick Durbin?

I think I know the answer.