Mayor testifies on behalf of Roberts

Botelho says Supreme Court nominee will decide cases, not causes

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2005

Juneau mayor Bruce Botelho testified Thursday in front of a Senate panel in Washington supporting Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

"I do so not only as a public official who has observed his work up close, but also as a liberal Democrat whose views on several issues are likely at odds with the majority of those on this committee," Botelho said.

The mayor is one of the few Democrats that Republicans asked to testify on the judge's behalf.

As the state's attorney general in the Knowles administration, Botelho worked alongside Roberts when he argued before the Supreme Court two landmark Alaska cases. Botelho said the state retained Robert for his services for seven years.

Botelho told the senators two anecdotes of his experiences with the nominee.

In order to get a better understanding of issues on a submerged lands case between the state and federal governments, Roberts explored the area by vessel and gathered thoughts from locals.

"Judge Roberts' decision to spend time traveling Southeast Alaska was emblematic of his passion for learning everything there is to know about a case, not just learning the law but to know the facts first hand," Botelho said.

The other example was from this summer. On the night of Roberts' nomination announcement, the mayor e-mailed to Roberts suggesting that given the turn of events, he did not have to meet a troop of Juneau Boy Scouts attending a nearby jamboree.

"His reply, which was sent at 2 a.m., began, 'Nonsense. I can't think of a more valuable use of my time,'" Botelho said.

Roberts met with the Boy Scouts for about an hour.

"And their collective evaluation of him was, 'He's a pretty good guy,'" Botelho said.

The mayor was also impressed with Roberts' speaking and writing skills.

"His briefs are technically perfect. They're clear, persuasive and they are a pleasure to read," Botelho said.

So far, Roberts has been characterized as a moderate conservative and has not shown particular leanings in hot issues, such as abortion, gay marriage, cloning or eminent domain.

Botelho did not give any specifics on Roberts' position on the issues except that from the mayor's experience, Roberts approaches cases with openness: "He will decide cases, not causes."

Botelho finished his testimony by calling Roberts the "most remarkable and inspiring lawyer I ever met."

In 1997, Roberts argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court opposing an attempt by two Arctic villages to tax and regulate land.

Roberts also argued in 1999 and 2000 the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state has title to submerged lands near the Tongass National Forest and Glacier Bay.

The committee is expected to vote on Roberts next week and then, if approved, the Senate floor will vote on his nomination the following week.

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