The documents included memos written by the court nominee about affirmative action.
WASHINGTON -- More than 38,000 pages of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' work for the Reagan administration were released Thursday as the White House and Congress played tug-of-war over Roberts' papers as a top Supreme Court lawyer for President Bush's father.
The latest release of 38,546 of some 51,285 pages of Roberts' work as associate Reagan White House counsel from 1982 to 1986 were released simultaneously at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., and the National Archives in Washington.
Assistant Archivist Sharon Fawcett told 30 news organizations assembled at the Archives' 1934 neoclassical headquarters that "the 70 boxes of records were Federal Expressed from the Reagan Library so you don't have to go to California."
The latest release includes Roberts' memos on affirmative action, including a 1983 memo to his boss, Reagan White House Counsel Fred Fielding, criticizing state affirmative action plans aimed at combating job bias.
Roberts urged White House caution in supporting state plans, calling some "highly objectionable" and singling out a California law to allow proportional layoffs to protect minority and women's gains rather than seniority in the face of budget cutbacks.
At the time, the Reagan administration was urging the Supreme Court to honor seniority agreements over race-conscious affirmative-action programs in public-employee layoffs in appeals from Boston and Memphis.
Why this matters
Roberts' views on the issue are important because he would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She wrote the majority decision upholding affirmative action's continued use in college admissions in 2003 in a 5-4 decision that was the Supreme Court's latest word on the issue.
Roberts' affirmative-action advice also took on added importance when the Archives disclosed that a file folder of Roberts "Affirmative Action Correspondence" had disappeared from the Reagan Library after two Bush administration lawyers reviewed it and returned it to the library staff in July.