Supreme Court justice nominee John Roberts Jr. successfully represented Toyota in a Supreme Court case and is considered pro-business. But don't expect to see automakers openly support his nomination.
You're not likely to see any full-page ads in the Washington Post paid for by a carmaker or an industry association, or an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal written by some highly motivated exec.
Judge Roberts' former client doesn't do that kind of thing. (It's not the Toyota Way.) Even so, Dennis Cuneo, senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America, says Roberts did a tremendous job for Toyota. Cuneo, who worked with him on the case, praises Roberts, calling him analytical and thorough.
And, if confirmed, Roberts almost certainly would have the distinction of being the only justice who understands the Toyota Production System. That's because he visited the factory floor and had to get right into the production process to prepare the case.
Toyota had been sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act by a former employee who was terminated. The woman's doctor said repetitive motion injuries had left her unable to work, but Toyota's doctors disagreed.
In January 2002, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in Toyota's favor.
Automakers don't like to use their political capital on a debate that doesn't relate directly to the industry's business, especially one in which the shrill voices of special interests will be the loudest. They tend to stay out of no-win fights.
But there are always exceptions to the rule.
Eighteen years ago, when President Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, General Motors Chairman Roger Smith supported Bork's nomination in a bylined op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal.
It raised a few eyebrows around town.
Smith strongly believed Bork was the judge for the job and wanted to say so. GM's honcho said Bork was business neutral but practiced judicial restraint. That makes it easier to understand the law, which is essential for business, Smith reasoned.
Alas, Bork's nomination was defeated.
So this time, maybe it's just that nobody wants to jinx Judge Roberts.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at