St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Witness lists set for Roberts court confirmation hearing

By Associated Press
Published September 3, 2005

WASHINGTON - A lawmaker who played a prominent role in the civil rights movement, a woman who sued the government to get handicapped access to courthouses and President Richard Nixon's former White House lawyer will testify at Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' confirmation hearing, Democrats said Friday.

Their selection as witnesses may indicate what Democrats will focus on next week when they question President Bush's choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Roberts, a former government lawyer in the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, is scheduled to begin his confirmation proceedings on Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Though the hearings were only days away, about 18,000 more documents from Roberts' past were released Friday from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The release was delayed because the documents had been mislabeled, but many of them had been released before or were not written by Roberts himself, said officials from the National Archives.

Thirty witnesses have been scheduled to speak at Roberts' confirmation hearings - 15 chosen by Republicans and 15 by Democrats. The GOP released its list Thursday, and it includes former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Jennifer Braceras and Peter Kirsanow from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho.

The Democrats' list includes U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who participated in the civil rights struggles that helped secure passage of the law in 1965; Carol Browner, the longest serving EPA administrator; and John Dean, Nixon's former White House counsel who testified in the Senate's Watergate investigation.

Dean argued in a recent column that the White House should release Roberts' working papers from his time as principal deputy solicitor general.

Also testifying for the Democrats will be the leaders of several groups that have announced opposition to Roberts: Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Marcia Greenburger of National Women's Law Center, Ann Marie Tallman of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Karen Pearl of Planned Parenthood.

The documents released Friday by the National Archive showed Roberts, then a lawyer in the Reagan White House counsel's office, trying to walk a fine line on several issues.

In an Aug. 28, 1985, memo, Roberts sought to strike a balance when then-Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote asking his views on revising libel laws.

Roberts responded in a memo to his boss Fred Fielding that he did not think the White House should get involved in a debate on loosening legal restrictions for public figures who want to sue when they believe they've been improperly maligned by the press. He suggested the question be referred to the Justice Department.

Schumer is now a senator who will question Roberts next week at the Judiciary Committee hearings.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.