Roberts gave advice during Fla. recount

Published July 21, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Judge John G. Roberts Jr., the president's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, made a brief appearance in Florida during the 2000 presidential recount - but he never signed up to represent any of the parties involved in dozens of lawsuits that erupted.

Roberts was one of several constitutional experts who visited Florida, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush said. At the governor's invitation, Roberts traveled at his own expense and met once with the governor to share what Roberts believed the governor's responsibilities were under federal law in a presidential election dispute. Roberts was not paid for his advice.

"Judge Roberts was one of several experts who came to Florida to share their ideas," said press secretary Jacob DiPietre. "The governor appreciated his willingness to serve and valued his counsel."

Barry Richard, the Tallahassee lawyer who represented President Bush in court, said Wednesday that he never heard of Roberts until he made the short list of those being considered for the Supreme Court.

"There were a billion lawyers involved," Richard said as he recalled the avalanche of lawyers and political experts who descended on Florida after the 2000 election.

Hundreds of lawyers for Bush and Vice President Al Gore flew to the state offering legal advice and courtroom skills for lawsuits filed in a half-dozen counties during the 36 days the world waited to see who had won the election. President Bush ultimately was declared the winner in Florida by 537 votes.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Roberts gave "private legal advice" to the governor during the recount as a long-standing member of the Republican National Lawyers Association, while others reported that Roberts gave the governor advice on how to declare his brother the winner.

"That is not accurate," said Alia Faraj, communications director for Bush.

Like Richard, other lawyers involved in the presidential recount fight said they never heard of Roberts until the president named him Tuesday night.

"I had no recollection of him," said J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, who served as an adviser to Secretary of State Katherine Harris in 2000. Stipanovich has close ties to Jeb Bush and sat in on legal strategy sessions at the time.

In a written statement, the governor applauded Roberts' nomination, saying he is "a man of integrity and personifies the qualities of an outstanding jurist with his even temper and respectful demeanor."