WASHINGTON — The National Women’s Law Center called on the Senate Aug. 31 to deny John Roberts Jr. a seat on the Supreme Court on grounds he would “undermine women’s basic legal rights.” A day earlier, the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of 71 women’s rights, environmental and other advocacy groups released a 103-page report also demanding that Roberts be rejected.

People for the American Way (PFAW) warned that if Roberts is confirmed, “the balance of the court will shift to the right for decades to come, imperiling Americans’ constitutional rights and liberties.” Those fundamental rights and liberties “are too precious to entrust to someone who spent more than a decade trying to narrow them,” the group said.

In a report available on its web site, www.pfaw.org, PFAW said documents released by the administration show Roberts “has shown enormous deference to the executive branch” threatening the Constitution’s “system of checks and balances.” PFAW has posted an online petition urging the Senate to reject Roberts.

Paloma Galindo, co-coordinator of United Mountain Defense, also assailed Roberts. “The senators should ask Roberts: Do you support the people of America over the corporations? We’d like to hear him make an honest statement.”

Galindo leads a grassroots organization that is struggling to save the mountains of Appalachia from a devastating form of strip mining called “mountaintop removal.”

The Florida-based National Coal Company, she told the World in a phone interview from her home in Knoxville, Tenn., is leading the pack in “stripping as many mountaintops as possible before the people wake up. Once these mountains are destroyed they are gone forever. These are some of the most diverse habitats in the world.”

Galindo added, “These companies have no commitment to sustaining these communities. All they are thinking about is short-term profits.”

“Jobs? Look at where the unemployment and poverty is highest. It’s where coal is being produced. Ammonium nitrate and dragline shovels are a great destroyer of jobs,” she said.

As for the federal Office of Surface Mining, Galindo said, “The OSM, packed with Bush appointees, has never denied a mining permit. This is an agency in bed with the coal operators. The reason we are in the situation we are in now is because of judges like John Roberts.”

Roberts wrote a legal brief supporting the coal operators’ attempts to deny the people the right to sue for the devastation inflicted on their communities by mountaintop removal. His brief was filed on behalf of the National Mining Association (NMA) in a West Virginia case, Bragg v. West Virginia Mining Association.

Earlier, in 1999, Roberts spoke at an NMA meeting where he offered coal executives tips on how to sucker judges into permitting this devastating form of coal mining.

As a senior partner with the law firm, Hogan and Hartson, Roberts served as chief counsel for Peabody Coal and other coal companies in their October 2002 Supreme Court appeal against a ruling by the Social Security Commissioner that the coal operators pay health care benefits owed to 10,000 retired coal miners.

In that case, Barnhart v. Peabody Coal et al., Justice David Souter, writing for the 6-3 majority, upheld the Social Security Administration and ordered the coal companies to pay. Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Sandra Day O’Connor sided with Peabody.

In another case, Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. Mine Workers, Roberts urged the Supreme Court to overturn an arbitrator’s order reinstating a union coal truck driver fired because he tested positive for marijuana use. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, upheld the arbitrator’s order and the worker kept his job.

Galindo scoffed at Bush’s soothing assurances that Roberts is a “mainstream” nominee. “Roberts is a very, very conservative corporate hatchet man,” she said.