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Roberts’ backers tout nominee at bar meeting

CHICAGO – Supreme Court nominee John Roberts skipped the American Bar Association’s yearly meeting, but big-name conservatives like Kenneth Starr and Theodore Olson were there to promote his credentials.

President Bush nominated Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. And with Senate confirmation hearings just a month away, he was the inescapable subject at the meeting of the country’s largest lawyers group.

Top conservatives, from Reagan administration Attorney General Edwin Meese to Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo, were attending the meeting and serving as unofficial ambassadors on Roberts’ behalf. “For those people who know him and can vouch for his capabilities and his excellence, this is a good opportunity,” Meese said.

Roberts’ nomination is also being promoted on television, radio and the Internet, with a $1 million campaign by the conservative group Progress for America.

About 10,000 people were in Chicago for the ABA’s 128th annual meeting. The group weighs in on all federal judge appointments, with a grade on their qualifications.