Roberts Adds Rare Democrat to Secret Court

But José Cabranes is so conservative Bush almost appointed him

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 21, 2013 3:42 PM CDT

(Newser) – John Roberts has finally appointed another Democrat to the secretive FISA court that watches over the NSA's controversial surveillance programs—but it's security hawks, not civil libertarians, who should be celebrating. Though he was originally appointed by Bill Clinton in 2000, Judge José A. Cabranes leans conservative ideologically, particularly on privacy and security issues, the New York Times reports. Indeed, in 2005 people like Michael Mukasey floated his name as a potential George W. Bush Supreme Court nominee.

Roberts has the unilateral power to appoint judges to the FISA court, and until now only two of the 14 he's appointed have been Democrats—and both, like Cabranes, lean right. Critics have complained that appointing a liberal counterweight might have eased public pressure on the court, as Congress considers reforming FISA. Cabranes won't do the trick; he once dismissed a lawsuit from lawyers seeking to learn if they'd been wiretapped without a warrant, and, in another case, allowed warrantless wiretap evidence to be used in court.

A file photo of Chief Justice John Roberts.   (AP Photo/Ann Wilkins/US Courts Circuit Executive's Office, File)
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