WASHINGTON — A newly released legal memo by Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts calling pay equity for women a “pernicious” legal doctrine touched off demands by women’s organizations that he be quizzed closely on the issue in Senate confirmation hearings next month.

The memo was one of 5,400 pages of documents dating from late 1982 to mid-1986 when Roberts was serving in the Reagan White House. Held in the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., the papers were released by the National Archives Aug.15 at the request of Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The White House has refused to release another 50,000 pages covering Roberts’ later service as deputy solicitor general in the Justice Department.

“That memo does cause us much concern,” Llenda Jackson-Leslie, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, told the World. “That’s one of the reasons we have joined with other organizations in asking the Senate to demand that these papers be released. We want a full, open, honest disclosure of all these papers, particularly the documents created when Roberts was at the Justice Department.”

In the memo, addressed to then-White House counsel Fred Fielding, Roberts reacted to a 1984 ruling by a federal district judge in Tacoma, Wash. The judge had upheld Washington State’s revised pay scales to close the yawning female-male wage gap in job categories where 70 percent or more of the workers were women.

Roberts’ memo denounced three women members of Congress, all Republicans, who endorsed the Washington State pay equity law. “I honestly find it troubling that three Republican representatives are so quick to embrace such a radical redistributive concept,” Roberts wrote in the memo. “Their slogan may as well be, ‘From each according to his ability, to each acccording to her gender.’”

Roberts was paraphrasing Karl Marx’s famous definition of socialism, “From each according to his [her] ability, to each according to his [her] work.” With this choice of language, Roberts revealed his readiness to use redbaiting against a simple measure to close the male-female income gap.

The Tacoma judge’s ruling was overturned the next year in an opinion written by Anthony M. Kennedy, then an appeals court judge. A year later, Reagan named him to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jackson-Leslie said pay equity “is an extremely urgent issue. Right now, Michigan and Alabama are tied for last place with women earning 67 cents for every dollar a man earns. It’s a major problem.”

The National Committee on Pay Equity estimates that working families lose more than $200 billion annually in income due to the male-female wage differential. That money flows into the profit coffers of corporate America. The gender wage gap is even wider for African American women who earn only 66 cents and for Hispanic women who earn only 55 cents for every dollar men earn. A 25-year-old woman can expect to lose between $250,000 and $500,000 over her lifetime due to this gap.

The most recent figures on the gender wage gap presented a misleading picture of women earning 81 cents for every dollar earned by the average male. Analysts say this apparent narrowing of the gap is the result of men earning less, not women earning more.

Noting that Roberts wrote the memo 21 years ago, Sherry Saunders, communications director of Business and Professional Women/USA, told the World, “I would hope he has had time to reconsider his opinion and I hope the Senate Judiciary Committee would ask him his opinions on this question today.”

“I was concerned that he was dismissive of a policy that provided women equal pay for work of comparable worth. We will be listening closely to these hearings,” she said.

Jackson-Leslie said pay equity “is only one of the issues we are concerned about.” Others include Roberts’ views on privacy, voting rights and affirmative action.

Jeremy Lemming, a spokes-man for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, pointed out that in one of the released documents, Roberts vehemently denounced the Supreme Court for overturning Alabama’s “moment of silence” prayer in school law.

Clearly, he said, Roberts is hostile to the First Amendment’s principle of separation of church and state. “Roberts was a high-ranking political appointee pushing legal doctrines that are as radical as those expressed by Robert Bork,” Lemming said, referring to the far-right Nixon Justice Department official whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate.

“Bush is seeking to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate swing vote on the high court, with a foot soldier of the extreme right,” Lemming continued.

“Bush won a second term by a very narrow margin. We don’t think the country has given him a mandate to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing extremists. We’ve already come out in opposition to this nominee and we hope others join us. There is enough evidence, now, that we have another Scalia or Thomas on our hands. We think the Senate should reject him.”

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