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Bush Nominates Longtime Friend and Attorney Harriet Miers for Supreme Court

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President Bush has selected White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace retiring Suprem Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. If confirmed, Miers–who has never served as a judge–would become the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Last year, Legal Times reported that Miers “has long been one of the most discreet, most private, and most protective members of George W. Bush’s inner circle.” [includes rush transcript]

President Bush is nominating his longtime friend and attorney Harriet Miers to serve on the Supreme Court. This according to the Associated Press.

The 60-year-old Miers is currently working as White House counsel and was formerly President Bush’s personal lawyer in Texas. Miers met Bush in the 1980s and she was counsel for his 1994 campaign for governor. He appointed her chair of the Texas Lottery Commission in 1995.

If confirmed by the Senate, Miers will fill Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat and become the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court. As an attorney, she was the first woman to serve as president of the Texas State Bar and the Dallas Bar Association. Miers has never served as a judge. Without a judicial record, it may be difficult for Senators to know where Miers stands on key issues facing the court. Last year, Legal Times reported that Miers “has long been one of the most discreet, most private, and most protective members of George W. Bush’s inner circle.”

  • Jamin Raskin, American University Law professor and author of “Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court vs. the American People.”
  • Nan Aron, President of the Alliance for Justice which is a national association of public interest and civil rights organizations.
  • Ted Goldman, congressional correspondent for the Legal Times. He wrote an article about Miers in December 2004 titled “Down to the Last Detail; Bush’s pick for White House counsel sports an exacting style”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the announcement that President Bush has made.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Once again, I considered a wide variety of distinguished Americans from different walks of life. Once again, we consulted with Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate. We received good advice from more than 80 senators. And once again, one person stood out as exceptionally well suited to sit on the highest court of our nation.

This morning, I’m proud to announce that I am nominating Harriet Ellan Miers to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. For the past five years, Harriet Miers has served in critical roles in our nation’s government, including one of the most important legal positions in the country, White House Counsel. She has devoted her life to the rule of law and the cause of justice. She will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Harriet was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She attended public schools. When illness struck her family during her freshman year in college, Harriet went to work to help pay for her own education. She went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.

Over the course of a distinguished legal career, Harriet has earned the respect and admiration of her fellow attorneys. She has a record of achievement in the law, as well as experience as an elected member of the Dallas City Council. She served at high levels of both state and federal government. Before state and federal courts, she has tried cases and argued appeals that covered a broad range of matters. She’s been a leader in the American Bar Association and has been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the most powerful attorneys in America.

Harriet’s greatest inspiration was her mother, who taught her the difference between right and wrong and instilled in Harriet the conviction that she could do anything she set her mind to. Inspired by that confidence, Harriet became a pioneer in the field of law, breaking down barriers to women that remained even after a generation — remained a generation after President Reagan appointed Justice O’Connor to the Supreme Court.

Harriet was the first woman to be hired at one of Dallas’s top law firms, the first woman to become president of that firm, the first woman to lead a large law firm in the state of Texas. Harriet also became the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association and the first woman elected president of the State Bar of Texas. In recognition of her achievements paving the way for women lawyers, Harriet’s colleagues in Texas have honored her with numerous awards, most recently the Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Excellence.

Harriet has built a reputation for fairness and integrity. When I came to office as the governor of Texas, the Lottery Commission needed a leader of unquestioned integrity. I chose Harriet because I knew she would earn the confidence of the people of Texas. The Dallas Morning News said that Harriet insisted on a system that was fair and honest. She delivered results.

Harriet has also earned a reputation for her deep compassion and abiding sense of duty. In Texas, she made it her mission to support better legal representation for the poor and underserved. As president of the Dallas Bar, she called on her fellow lawyers to volunteer and staff free neighborhood clinics. She led by example. She put in long hours of pro bono work. Harriet Miers has given generously of her time and talent by serving as a leader with more than a dozen community groups and charities, including the Young Women’s Christian Association, Child Care Dallas, Goodwill Industries, Exodus Ministries, Meals on Wheels and the Legal Aid Society.

Harriet’s life has been characterized by service to others, and she will bring that same passion for service to the Supreme Court of the United States. I’ve given a lot of thought to the kind of people who should serve on the federal judiciary. I’ve come to agree with the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote about the importance of having judges who are drawn from a wide diversity of professional backgrounds. Justice Rehnquist himself came to the Supreme Court without prior experience on the bench, as did more than 35 other men, including Byron White. And I’m proud to nominate an outstanding woman who brings a similar record of achievement in private practice and public service.

Under the Constitution, Harriet’s nomination now goes before the United States Senate for confirmation.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush, announcing he has nominated Harriet Miers as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. This is Harriet Miers accepting her nomination.

HARRIET MIERS: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you very much. I am very grateful for the confidence in me that you have shown by this nomination, and, certainly, I am humbled by it.

From my early days as a clerk in the Federal District Court, and throughout almost three decades of legal practice, bar service and community service, I have always had a great respect and admiration for the genius that inspired our Constitution and our system of government. My respect and admiration have only grown over these past five years that you have allowed me to serve the American people as a representative of the executive branch.

The wisdom of those who drafted our constitution and conceived our nation as functioning with three strong and independent branches have proven truly remarkable. 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 the Constitution.

As White House Counsel, I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the members of the Congress, and that experience has given me an even greater appreciation for the role of the legislative branch in our constitutional system.

And now I look forward to the next step in the process that has begun this morning, including the Senate’s consideration of my nomination. I look forward to participating in that process.

And now I want to pause and thank all of those whose love and friendship and support have brought me to this moment. No one reaches a point in time such as this without tremendous sacrifice, help and encouragement of family and friends and colleagues. I’m immensely grateful to the support and love that I feel for my brothers Harris, Robert, and Jeb, and their families, and the love and support that I knew from my father and my sister, Kitty, and the love and support I feel from her family. I have a special note this morning for my mom: Thank you for your faith, your strength, your courage, your love and beauty of spirit. And thank you, Mr. President, for this tremendous honor by your nomination.

AMY GOODMAN: Harriet Miers accepting President Bush’s nomination of her to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. When we come back, Jamin Raskin of American University and Nan Aron, will join us, President of Alliance for Justice.


AMY GOODMAN: We look now at the President’s nomination of Harriet Miers to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Our guests are Jamin Raskin at the American University Law School, author of Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court Versus the American People, and Nan Aron, President of the Alliance for Justice and National Association of Public Interest and Civil Rights Organizations. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Professor Raskin, let’s begin with you. Your response to President Bush’s selection.

JAMIN RASKIN: Well, I think that this is the act of both arrogance and monumental insecurity on the part of President Bush. He went not to a federal judge or a state judge or a law professor, but rather to someone on his inner sanctum staff, who has been a personal lawyer for him and, you know, basically catapulted that person to the Supreme Court. And, if anything, she has less of a paper trail than John Roberts did and can be expected to be an even more — even more of a party loyalist and Bush functionary than John Roberts was.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at something that David Frum wrote, says “Harriet Miers, Bush’s next pick for the Supreme Court, currently White House Counsel, once served as Bush’s personal lawyer. She has never been a judge, but what she lacks in experience she makes up for in devotion.” This is what National Review's David Frum had to say about Miers last week. He said, “In a White House that hero-worshipped the President, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal. She once told me,” Frum writes, “that the President was the most brilliant man she'd ever met.” Frum concluded, “This is no time for the President to indulge his loyalty to his friends.” Nan Aron, your response to President Bush’s selection?

NAN ARON: Well, it’s not surprising that she was the choice. In fact, the only reason, probably, she has been selected for this seat on our highest court is because of her closeness to Bush family. She, as your listeners now know, has been the personal lawyer to George Bush. She was the one who conducted a —

AMY GOODMAN: Nan Aron, are you still there?

NAN ARON: Yes, I am. She conducted background checks on Bush before he ran for Texas governor in 1994, helped him during the 2000 presidential campaign. She served as his advisor and helped with ensuing litigation. She represented then-Governor Bush in the legal challenge of whether Cheney could be on the presidential ticket because he was from the same state as Bush. She has been a long-time friend, advisor, lawyer to the Bush family, and obviously, that secured her appointment today.

But, having said that, little is known about her views on critical issues like environmental protection, worker protection, civil rights, and it will be up to the Senate — In fact, it will be critically important for the Senate to get as much information as it can about her record.

One last thing is — very, very disappointed that the White House refused to disclose any of John Roberts’s memos that he wrote as the political deputy while he served in the Solicitor General’s office during the Bush administration. It was Harriet Miers, in fact, who refused to share his records with the public or the Senate and, of course, now that she is the nominee, she will be able to hide behind their refusal to share information now about her. She has helped create the precedent that will allow the White House to essentially not cooperate with the Senate, and so, we are all looking to the Senate to conduct a full and thorough inquiry and to get as much information about her views so that the Senate and the American people can decide whether she is deserving of this very important seat on the Supreme Court.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the phone by T.R. Goldman, writes for Legal Times, wrote an extensive piece about Harriet Miers. Can you give us her history? Welcome, T.R. Goldman.

TED GOLDMAN: Actually, I just got in and I haven’t read the piece in a couple of months, but the point of the matter is she’s Dallas-born and —bred. She grew up there. She went to high school there. She went to college there, and I believe law school. She really never left the state until she moved to Washington to become the Secretary -— Staff Secretary at the White House, which is a very difficult job. Not a — well, it’s a difficult job because you’re in charge of all of the paper flow. A couple of years later, President Bush made her his White House Counsel, which is a bit more of a significant job, but as everyone has probably said by now, she has no real significant legal experience. She did clerk for a federal judge, and that’s probably the extent of it, aside from being a corporate lawyer for a very long time.

AMY GOODMAN: And her relationship with President Bush, T.R. Goldman?

TED GOLDMAN: Well, it’s one of the things we do know about President Bush, that he values loyalty, he values friendships. They have known each other in very, very tight circumstances for ten years. Apparently she did a bit of personal legal work for him at one point. I’m not clear exactly what, but they have a long-standing relationship, and he trusts her absolutely. And she is someone to be trusted. She is incredibly loyal and a very devout church-goer, very, very close to her family. And there’s not going to be a lot more to be said right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Nan Aron, one of the major issues, the issue of abortion raised continually on John Roberts. How much do you know about Harriet Miers and this position?

NAN ARON: Well, we don’t know an awful lot about her views on choice except for the fact that several years ago, the American Bar Association was bitterly divided over the abortion issue, and at one point, the A.B.A. reaffirmed its support for a woman’s right to choose whether to end a pregnancy. Harriet Miers sponsored a resolution that would have allowed a referendum vote to be taken by all the members of the A.B.A., which probably, although made it — would have made it more difficult for it to have passed. So there are certainly — and so, clearly, she was not in favor of the American Bar Association’s resolution on choice issues. It will be an issue for her.

It will certainly be asked of her at the hearing, and if she follows in the shoes of John Roberts, she will decline to answer any questions. So, obviously, it’s important for the Senate to figure out and find out a little bit more, not just her views on choice, but a whole range of issues. After all, she is going to fill the seat of Sandra Day O’Connor, who was a vote in favor of women’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, church-state separation. So, she has a very, very high standard.

TED GOLDMAN: Advancing women’s rights. I mean, she was the first female President of the State Bar of Texas. What we don’t know, of course, as Nan says, is her personal attitudes about lots of social hot-button issues. As far as being a trailblazer, as a woman, she very much has been.

AMY GOODMAN: T.R. Goldman.

NAN ARON: Yes, and I guess the question is, T.R. and Amy, has she been not only a trailblazer, but an individual who has sought to advance the rights of women in her state and in the country? That will certainly be a critical issue for the Senate to consider.

AMY GOODMAN: T.R. Goldman, you write that “Miers was elected President of Locke Purnell in 1996, by then a 225 lawyer firm. Three years later, it merged. She became co-manager of Locke Liddell & Sapp. She was a commercial litigator representing such clients as Microsoft, the Walt Disney Company and Republic National Bank. In 1996, at an Anti-Defamation League jurisprudence award ceremony, Bush introduced Miers as 'a pit bull in size six shoes,' a tag line that has persisted through the years, in part because colorful anecdotes or descriptions about Miers are notoriously difficult to find.”

TED GOLDMAN: Well, that’s true. I mean, she is the epitome of a Southern woman. She is very — in sort of the old — in the old fashioned sense. She’s very, very courteous, very, very courteous, and an incredibly hard worker. I remember when I was doing the story about her, people would constantly remark that when they went home at night, her lights were always on in the office. Incredibly devoted to her job, incredibly devoted to the President. Again, you can make whatever translation you want into how that’s going to turn out to be as a Supreme Court Justice, but as a staff person, she’s loyalty, above all. But the court, of course, is a completely different animal. You’re put on by a particular President, of course, but in theory, you have absolutely no loyalty to their political agenda.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting that her office, that Harriet Miers was put in charge of helping to select the next Supreme Court Justice. It reminds me of Dick Cheney also being put in charge of perhaps helping to choose the next Vice President, and then he is chosen. Jamin Raskin, American University Law Professor, your response?

JAMIN RASKIN: Well, this is the exact same thing I thought when I heard it. You know, Cheney was supposed to find running mates for George Bush, and lo and behold after months of arduous search comes up with himself as the best candidate, and it’s the same situation here, but the thing that’s really stunning is that of all of the judges and lawyers and law professors in the country, that Bush turns to his own White House counsel, someone who has been on his, you know, inner legal and policy staff for many years now to promote to the Supreme Court.

And, you know, this is obviously sending a clear signal to the hard right conservative wing of the Republican Party that this is someone who is going to play ball on all of the issues that they care about most, and it does put the Democrats in the Senate to the test. You know, is it going to be enough that you have, you know, a nice and presentable and attractive candidate who, you know, was involved with the A.B.A., or are we looking for someone who is going to try to stand on the side of the civil rights and civil liberties revolutions that took place over the last three decades? And, you know, again, I think it forces the Democrats to think real hard about what their advice and consent role is in the Supreme Court nomination process.

AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that she hasn’t been a judge, what does that actually mean?

JAMIN RASKIN: Well, the most important thing is it means that there’s no paper trail record of what exactly she would do in office, although, you know, she’s already, you know, uttering the rhetoric of the rule of law, which John Roberts rallied around during his hearings, as if the rule of law is self-evident and as if it’s clear what that means, for example, on the question of the constitutional right to privacy or freedom of speech or equal protection. It’s never clear what it means. And so, they certainly shouldn’t be able to get away with banal indications of the rule of law as if that tells us anything about what they would actually do.

AMY GOODMAN: Jamin Raskin, I want to thank you for being with us. Nan Aron, any last comment?

NAN ARON: No, I think, as Jamin has said, it’s really now up to Senate to do its work and to conduct a very independent, thorough inquiry into her qualifications. Thank you for having me this morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Nan Aron, thanks very much for being with us, of the Alliance for Justice, President; and T.R. Goldman, thank you for being with us as well, of Legal Times.

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