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GOP releases list of Roberts backers

Thirty to address Senate committee

WASHINGTON -- Two members of the US Commission on Civil Rights, a former US attorney general, and the mayor of Juneau, Alaska, will be among people expected to speak in favor of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts's candidacy at the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, officials said yesterday.

Judiciary Republicans released a tentative list of people they invited to speak about President Bush's nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, as Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York implored Roberts to answer tough questions instead of avoiding key issues.

Thirty people are scheduled to testify before the committee after senators finish questioning him -- 15 invited by Republicans and 15 by Democrats.

The Democrats have not yet released their list, but included on the Republican side are former Attorney General William Barr, Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, National Collegiate Athletic Association lawyer Elsa Cole, and US Commission on Civil Rights members Jennifer Braceras and Peter Kirsanow.

Barr was at the Justice Department during Roberts's stint as principal deputy solicitor general, Braceras spoke out in Roberts's favor last week at a news conference in the Capitol, and Cole worked with Roberts when he represented the athletic association in a sex discrimination case in 1999.

Cole said last month: ''There was not a question that he had not anticipated . . . We got a decision within a month, 9 to 0 in our favor. Can you do any better than that?"

Botelho is the former Alaska attorney general, and Roberts has represented that state before the Supreme Court.

Also included on the list are two representatives from Roberts's time in the private sector: Catherine Stetson of law firm Hogan and Hartson, and Maureen Mahoney from law firm Latham and Watkins.

Schumer yesterday argued that Roberts should answer tough questions posed to him by Democrats, instead of using Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a role model for avoiding issues.

Republicans say Ginsburg declined to answer senators' questions 55 times at her Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, while Justice Stephen Breyer declined to answer questions 18 times.

Conservative group Progress for America is running a television advertisement saying ''As with Ginsburg, Judge Roberts should not answer questions that force him to prejudge cases."

But Schumer, a New Yorker and member of the Judiciary Committee, argued in a speech yesterday that Ginsburg had a clearer paper trail given her 13 years as a federal appeals judge, and that she was a consensus candidate since President Clinton consulted with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah before naming her to the court.

Roberts became a federal judge in 2003.

''If Judge Roberts repeatedly resorts to the so-called 'Ginsburg precedent,' it will sound less like a principled refusal to answer and more like a variation on the Fifth Amendment: 'I refuse to answer that question on the ground that it may incriminate me. Answering may reveal my actual views about constitutional law and cause me to lose votes,' " said Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

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