Roberts Consultant for 2000 Recount Fight

Roberts had larger 2000 recount role (Miami Herald)

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.”

The piece does not say, beyond the first sentence of the second paragraph above, how Roberts’ role had been represented. That one of the most brilliant legal minds in Republican circles would have been called on in this fight certainly does not surprise me. Indeed, the piece is quite flattering to Roberts.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mikey says:

    So the article says the Republicans hired the best legal talent they could find and Roberts was one of those lawyers. He was considered one of the best legal writers available and knew who to prep people to appear before the highest court in the land.
    Sounds like a fine endorsement to me.

  2. Mark says:

    Oh, by all means let the democrats continue to harp on the 2000 election.

  3. McGehee says:

    I’ve heard of “fighting the last war,” but these guys are still “fighting the war before the last war.”