- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts Jr. skipped the American Bar Association’s annual meeting, but big-name conservatives such as Kenneth W. Starr and Theodore Olson are there to promote his credentials.

Judge Roberts’ nomination to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is a watershed for lawyers. And with Senate confirmation hearings just a month away, he was the inescapable subject at this weekend’s meeting of the country’s largest lawyers group.

Top conservatives, from Mr. Starr and Mr. Olson to Reagan administration Attorney General Edwin Meese III and Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo, are attending the meeting and serving as unofficial ambassadors on Judge Roberts’ behalf.

“For those people who know him and can vouch for his capabilities and his excellence, this is a good opportunity,” Mr. Meese said.

About 10,000 people were in Chicago for the ABA’s 128th annual meeting. The group weighs in on all federal judge appointments, with a grade on their qualifications.

Mr. Starr, who was solicitor general and Judge Roberts’ boss during the first Bush administration, was surrounded at meetings and receptions by people hungry for any tidbit about the Supreme Court nominee.

“He is being very well received, and he certainly should be well received,” Mr. Starr said.

Mr. Olson, a former Roberts colleague who will headline an ABA event Tuesday with Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, said: “All but the most partisan of lawyers will agree that John Roberts is a superbly qualified nominee.”

Judge Roberts is an ABA member, but has not been especially active in the group, which has clashed with the Bush White House over presidential war powers and even whether the group should be involved in peer reviews of judges.

In the past, the association has taken stands for abortion rights and a moratorium on capital punishment.

“The ABA has been regarded as a branch of the Democratic Party,” said Thomas Merrill, a Columbia Law School professor and a former Roberts’ colleague in the government who was at the meeting.

But Mr. Merrill said Judge Roberts’ successes as a Supreme Court lawyer — he won 25 of the 39 cases he argued there as a private practice and government lawyer — make it easy to sell his credentials to lawyers.

“Even very liberal lawyers would respect that,” he said.

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