Wednesday, July 27, 2005

SCOTUS Watch: Roberts in Florida 2000—Stealthy. Very, very stealthy 

We all know how faulty Robert's memory is—he couldn't remember if he was, or had ever been, a member of the Federalist Society—and that's why we need more documents. To help him out. And one question we've been wanting to ask Roberts is this one: What "private advice" did Roberts give Jebbie during Florida 2000? Since, after all, Roberts was "in the shadows" there for 37 days (back)

Well, apparently Robert's handlers have decided they won't be able to duck the question of why Roberts was in Florida, so they've decided on a modified, limited hangout:

ohn Roberts played a broader behind-the-scenes role for the Republican camp in the aftermath of the 2000 election than previously reported ...

My goodness! Who would have thought? I mean, besides those nasty liberal bloggers.

-- 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...

Until now, Gov. Jeb Bush and others involved in the election dispute could recall almost nothing of Roberts' role ....

How odd! So now, the issue isn't what they're telling us—it's what they're holding back. Because you know they would give us nothing unless they hoped to conceal worse. (For our younger readers, the "modified, limited hangout is from Nixon's old Watergate playbook, which, believe it or not, is still in use today!)

.... 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.

Note the pre-emptive alibi....

[L]ike Cruz, [Roberts] 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.''

Jokingly? So why am I not laughing?

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.

Actually, the first stories had Roberts giving "private advice" (back) to Jebbie.

So it looks like we've got a multi-layer modified, limited hangout. Layer #1 would be the "private advice" line (note how this sets up a claim of attorney-client privilege). Then modified limited hangout layer #2 would be this "dress rehearsal" thing. I mean, a dress rehearsal isn't exactly private, right? So it will be interesting to find out what layer #3 is. (There seem to be a lot of unforced errors in handling this Roberts thing. First, the Federalist Society thing, now this. Is everyone on the Bush A team dealing with their pending indictments, or what?)

''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.

This is "private advice"?

And now comes the essential point:

The Republicans assigned lawyers to one of five teams: the U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court, local county litigation, trial attorneys and military affairs. Though apparently on the federal team, Roberts' name appears on no legal briefs, a fact that Cruz attributes to Roberts' modesty.

''He already had a name. He didn't need the recognition,'' Cruz said.
(Miami Herald via Josh Marshall)

Well, well. I'm certainly with Cruz on this one. After all, lawyers are known for their modesty...

But—bear with me here—doesn't the bare possibility exist that Roberts viewed his... Let's not call it "modesty"... Or "anonymity"... How about stealthiness... Yes, that Roberts viewed his stealthiness as a prime professional asset that he wished to preserve? After all, there are some guys who prefer to work the back rooms—especially when having no paper trail has already been one successful strategy (Souter) for getting a seat on the Supreme Court.

NOTE I still want to know what the "private advice" was.

NOTE It would also be interesting to know if Roberts, as a fully paid up member of "the cabal," had any private contacts with Rehnquist (or Scalia) before Bush v. Gore was heard, and whether the results of any of those contacts were fed back into the "rehearsals" he was holding.

NOTE And I also want to know if Roberts thinks Bush v. Gore was rightly decided. If they want to fight Florida 2000 all over again (perhaps as misdirection to avoid fighting Ohio 2004 again?) I say, Bring it on.

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