Mayor to testify for Supreme Court nominee

Botelho says John Roberts is thorough, not ideologically driven

Posted: Friday, September 02, 2005

WASHINGTON - Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho is among 15 people invited by Republicans to testify in support of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' candidacy, officials said Thursday.

The list of those expected to favor the would-be successor to retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor also includes two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a former U.S. attorney general.

Botelho said he will testify.

Thirty people are scheduled to testify before the committee after senators finish questioning him - 15 invited by Republicans and 15 by Democrats.

Botelho was Alaska's attorney general during the Democratic Knowles administration, and Roberts has represented his state before the Supreme Court. The mayor has known Roberts since 1995, and said he would make a great Supreme Court justice.

"He is a person who has reverence for the law," Botelho said. "He makes his decisions based on facts. He will not be ideologically driven."

Botelho said Roberts' legal scholarship shows in his writing.

"His writing is very precise and clear," Botelho said. "He is careful with his word choice and sentence placement. His degree of precision and thoroughness is unequaled."

Roberts met Juneau Boy Scouts who visited Washington with Botelho during their trip to the National Scout Jamboree in late July. He gave them a tour of the Supreme Court and explained the selection process to them, the mayor said.

The Democrats have not yet released their list of witnesses, but included on the Republican side are National Collegiate Athletic Association lawyer Elsa Cole and U.S. Civil Rights commissioners Jennifer Braceras and Peter Kirsanow. Committee aides announced late Thursday that Dick Thornburgh would testify, rather than fellow former attorney general William Barr, as had been previously announced.

Barr was at the Justice Department during Roberts' stint as principle deputy solicitor general, Braceras spoke out in Roberts' favor last week at a news conference in the Capitol and Cole worked with Roberts when he represented the athletic association in a sex discrimination case in 1999.

Cole said last month: "There was not a question that he had not anticipated ... . We got a decision within a month, 9-0 in our favor. Can you do any better than that?"

Also included on the list are two representatives of Roberts' time in the private sector: Catherine Stetson of law firm Hogan and Hartson and Maureen Mahoney from law firm Latham and Watkins.

Schumer on Thursday argued that Roberts should answer tough questions posed to him by Democrats, instead of using Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a role model for avoiding issues.

Republicans say Ginsburg declined to answer senators' questions 55 times at her Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, while Justice Stephen Breyer declined to answer questions 18 times.

Conservative group Progress for America is running a television advertisement saying "As with Ginsburg, Judge Roberts should not answer questions that force him to prejudge cases."

But Schumer, a New Yorker and member of the Judiciary Committee, argued in a speech Thursday that Ginsburg had a clearer paper trail given her 13 years as a federal appeals judge, and that she was a consensus candidate since President Clinton consulted with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah before naming her to the court. Roberts became a federal judge in 2003.

"If Judge Roberts repeatedly resorts to the so-called 'Ginsburg Precedent,' it will sound less like a principled refusal to answer and more like a variation on the Fifth Amendment: 'I refuse to answer that question on the ground that it may incriminate me. Answering may reveal my actual views about constitutional law and cause me to lose votes,"' said Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

• Juneau Empire reporter I-Chun Che contributed to this story.

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