White House counsel Harriet Miers for Supreme Court
W. Bush chose Harriet Miers, White House counsel and a
loyal member of the president's inner circle, to replace
retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S.
Supreme Court, senior administration officials said Monday.
If confirmed by the Republican-controlled
Senate, Miers, 60, would join Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg as the second woman on the nation's highest
court. Miers, who has never been a judge, was the first
woman to serve as president of the Texas State Bar and
the Dallas Bar Association.
Bush's comments about Miers inadvertently
set off a flurry of angry e-mails among gay and
lesbian Americans when he mentioned Miers's
affiliation with Exodus Ministry. However, that is not the
so-called "ex-gay" group familiar to LGBT people.
Instead, it is another group with the same
name—“a nondenominational Christian
organization established to assist ex-offenders and
their families become productive members of society by
meeting both their spiritual and physical needs.”
Not that Miers is out of the woods with LGBT activists.
Without a judicial record, it's difficult to
know whether she would dramatically move the court to
the right. The lack of a judicial paper trail may also
make it more difficult for Democrats to find ground on
which to fight her nomination. Gay rights groups remain cautious.
"We firmly believe that a commitment to equality
and fairness for all Americans is a core qualification
for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court," said
Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal.
"Legal intellect and experience is necessary, but not
enough. That's the $64 million question for us: Does
Harriet Miers possess a clear commitment to equality
and fairness for all Americans, including LGBT people
and those affected with HIV, and a judicial philosophy that
will make that commitment real?"
Added Joe Solmonese, president of the gay rights
group Human Rights Campaign: “It’s
important that Ms. Miers demonstrate she’s a worthy
successor to Justice O’Connor, a consensus builder in
a closely divided court. With a lifetime appointment,
the Senate should be sure that a Justice Miers would
safeguard the rights of all Americans.”
Democrats are under pressure from liberal
interest groups to fight Bush's second Supreme Court
pick. The minority party in the Senate was evenly
split on the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts, who
was to open the Supreme Court term shortly after Bush
announced Miers's nomination.
White House officials said Miers is conservative
enough to satisfy the president's supporters and does
not have a lengthy legal record that could embolden
Democrats. "There's every indication that she's very
similar to Judge Roberts—judicial restraint, limited
role of the court, basically a judicial conservative,"
said Republican consultant Greg Mueller, who works for
several conservative advocacy leaders.
Both Democratic and Republican senators
recommended Miers as a possible nominee, he said.
Senators also suggested that Bush consider picking
someone who was not a judge so the bench would be flush with
justices from all walks of life.
"Harriet Miers, like Justice O'Connor, has been
a trailblazer and a pioneer," said Rick Garnett, a law
professor at Notre Dame and former law clerk to the
late chief justice William H. Rehnquist. "Like Justice
O'Connor, Ms. Miers has broken through barriers in the law,
serving as a leader and role model and impressing everyone
with her decency and her sharp intellect. She would be
a worthy and appropriate successor to Justice O'Connor
and would carry to the court a commitment to
constitutionalism, judicial restraint, and the rule of law."
Rehnquist, whose death paved way for Roberts's nomination,
had not served as a judge before President Nixon put
him on the Supreme Court.
Liberals say the White House should be prepared
for Miers to be peppered with questions during her
Senate confirmation because she has no record.
"Choosing somebody who is not a judge would put that much
more of a premium on straight answers to questions
because there would be that much less for senators and
the public to go on when looking at such a nominee's
judicial philosophy," said Elliot Mincberg, counsel with
the liberal group People for the American Way.
The Supreme Court meets for nine months a year.
Its first week will be shorter than usual, with
justices hearing two cases Monday—one that asks
if companies must pay for workers' time spent changing into
uniforms and a second that questions whether states
may tax fuel sold on Indian reservations.
Later this year several significant cases will
be argued, including a high-profile case asking
whether the government can withhold federal funds from
colleges that bar military recruiters from campus in protest
of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding
gay service members.
"The Bush administration has already failed
American families by constructing a judicial selection
process that relies on the corrupt cronyism of antigay
activists, which clouds the intent of this
nomination," said Eric Stern, executive director of National
Stonewall Democrats. "As White House counsel, Harriet Miers
served as the key legal adviser on controversial
legislative matters. Therefore, the White House should
disclose the advice she provided the Administration on
key legislation such as the antimarriage constitutional
amendment and the Marriage Protection Act." (AP,