U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts played a broader behind-the-scenes role for the Republican camp in the aftermath of the 2000 election than previously reported -- as legal consultant, lawsuit editor and prep coach for arguments before the nation's highest court, according to the man who drafted him for the job.
Ted Cruz, a domestic policy advisor for President Bush and who is now Texas' solicitor general, said Roberts was one of the first names he thought of while he and another attorney drafted the Republican legal dream team of litigation ''lions'' and ''800-pound gorillas,'' which ultimately consisted of 400 attorneys in Florida.
Until now, Gov. Jeb Bush and others involved in the election dispute could recall almost nothing of Roberts' role, except for a half-hour meeting the governor had with Roberts. Cruz said Roberts was in Tallahassee helping the Bush camp for ''a week to 10 days,'' and that his help was important, though Cruz said it is difficult to remember specifics five years after the sleep-depriving frenetic pace of the 2000 recount.
But one thing was certain, Cruz told The Herald: ``There was no one better for the job.''
''He's one of the best brief writers in the country. Just like a good journalist or a novelist, he can write with clarity, concisely and can paint a picture with words,'' said Cruz. Roberts, a constitutional-law expert in a top Washington law firm at the time, is now a federal appeals court judge in D.C. Roberts was a no-brainer for the recount effort: His win-loss record at the U.S. Supreme Court was one of the most impressive. And, like Cruz, he was a member of a tight-knit circle of former clerks for the court's chief justice, William Rehnquist -- a group jokingly referred to as ``the cabal.''
Soon after getting the call from Cruz, Roberts traveled from his Washington office at Hogan & Hartson to Tallahassee to lend advice and help polish legal briefs. Later, Roberts participated in a dress rehearsal to prepare the Bush legal team for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cruz's account is the first to place Roberts firmly within the Bush vs. Gore battle, filling in substantial blanks in the memories of everyone from Bush's campaign lawyer, Ben Ginsberg, to the governor.
When it comes to his meeting with Roberts, the governor said Roberts flew down to Tallahassee, on his own dime, to meet for 30 minutes sometime in November or December to discuss the governor's role in certifying the election. Cruz, who had also met with the governor, said he believed that Roberts was already in Tallahassee and simply walked up the hill from the GOP headquarters to meet the governor.
Ted Olson, the lawyer who successfully argued George W. Bush's case before the U.S. Supreme Court, said Roberts helped, but couldn't recall what legal briefs, if any, Roberts reviewed. Olson said he was certain that Roberts participated in a ''moot court'' hearing to prep him for arguments before the high court in the first of two hearings.
''It was a conference room full of people and John was there. I had known him for 20 years by that point, and I highly respected his opinions,'' Olson said.