Bush Taps Unknown Harriet Miers to Replace Moderate O'Connor
By Robert Marus
Associated Baptist Press
October 3, 2005
WASHINGTON (ABP) -- President Bush has nominated a White House insider
with no judicial experience to replace a moderate justice on the
Just hours before the high court began its 2005-2006 term with new
Chief Justice John Roberts at the helm Oct. 3, Bush announced he was
tapping his top personal lawyer and longtime confidante, White House
Counsel Harriet Miers, to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day
"I believe that senators of both parties will find that Harriet Miers'
talent, experience and judicial philosophy make her a superb choice to
safeguard the constitutional liberties and equality of all Americans,"
Bush said in announcing the pick. "Harriet Miers will strictly
interpret our Constitution and laws. She will not legislate from the
In response, Miers said, "It is the responsibility of every generation
to be true to the founders' vision of the proper role of the courts in
our society. If confirmed, I recognize that I will have a tremendous
responsibility to keep our judicial system strong, and to help ensure
that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply the laws and
Miers, 60, has never served as a judge. Before joining Bush's
administration in 2001, her career had been spent mostly as a private
attorney, except for brief stints as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery
Commission and a member of the Dallas City Council. She also served as
Bush's personal lawyer while he was governor of Texas.
The Supreme Court has a long history of members who did not previously
serve on the bench, including William Rehnquist, whose recent death
created the opening that Roberts fills. Rehnquist had never served as
a judge prior to his appointment, nor did several other famous
justices, such as the late Byron White.
With virtually no legal "paper trail" to provide a clue to Miers'
ideological leanings, her nomination to replace O'Connor's crucial
"swing vote" is sure to draw intense scrutiny.
Roberts, the newly installed chief justice, is expected to be a
reliable conservative like Rehnquist, his predecessor and mentor. But
O'Connor was often the deciding vote on controversial social issues
that the court decided with 5-4 decisions.
Because of the unknowns about her judicial philosophy, early reactions
to Miers' selection were mostly cautious.
"We know even less about Harriet Miers than we did about John
Roberts," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate
panel that will consider her nomination. "And because this is the
critical swing seat on the court, Americans will need to know a lot
more about Miers' judicial philosophy and legal background before any
vote for confirmation."
Likewise, some Bush supporters expressed caution about selecting
someone whose legal views on abortion rights, gay rights, religion in
public life and other controversial issues are unknown.
"The reaction of many conservatives today will be that the president
has made possibly the most unqualified choice since Abe Fortas, who
had been [President Lyndon Johnson's] lawyer," said Manuel Miranda,
who was ousted from the Senate Judiciary Committee's Republican staff
and now is a conservative activist on judicial appointments. "However,
the president deserves the benefit of a doubt, the nominee deserves
the benefit of hearings, and every nominee deserves an up-or-down
Republican members of the Judiciary Committee were more positive.
"Harriet Miers is a brilliant legal mind," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas),
himself a former judge, told reporters in a Capitol news conference
following Bush's announcement. "It is clear that her past experiences
have well prepared her for the honor of serving our country as a
Supreme Court justice."
And the Senate's most powerful Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, said
Miers' lack of judicial experience is not a liability. "The Supreme
Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real
experience as a practicing lawyer," he said. "The current justices
have all been chosen from the lower federal courts. A nominee with
relevant non-judicial experience would bring a different and useful
perspective to the court."
Miers received undergraduate and law degrees from Southern Methodist
University in her hometown of Dallas. Early in her career, she clerked
for Federal District Judge Joe Estes. She then became the first female
attorney hired by a prominent Dallas law firm, Locke, Purnell, Rain
and Harrell. She later became the group's first female president.
According to a biographical sketch provided by the White House, Miers
"is single and very close to her family; two brothers and her mother
live in Dallas and a third brother lives in Houston."
Miers blazed trails in Texas legal circles by becoming the first woman
to serve as president of the Dallas Bar Association and the Texas
Her bar-association work provides one of the few possible clues to her
ideological leanings. In 1992, she campaigned against a resolution
that declared the nationwide American Bar Association in favor of
However, her public statements at the time did not indicate her views
on Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion but rather on her view
that it was not appropriate for the association to take a stance on
such a controversial issue.
But other events Oct. 3 reiterated the central role that abortion and
other social issues will play in the likely battle over Miers'
nomination. Just an hour after he announced his pick, Bush traveled to
the court to observe Roberts' investiture ceremony on the high court's
first day of business in its October 2005 term. As he and Roberts
entered the court's marble building, a group of anti-abortion
demonstrators outside paused to pray for him.