Harriet E. Miers

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Harriet Ellan Miers submitted her resignation to President George W. Bush as White House Counsel on January 5, 2007. [1]

Miers was nominated by President George W. Bush October 3, 2005, as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Miers nomination was sent to the U.S. Senate on October 7, 2005, but subsequently withdrawn "as a result of conservative opposition." [2]

Do-Over
"The Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers suffered another setback on [October 19, 2005,] when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her to resubmit parts of her judicial questionnaire, saying various members had found her responses 'inadequate,' 'insufficient' and 'insulting'," David E. Kirkpatrick wrote in the October 20, 2005, New York Times.

"At one key juncture after another, Miers has faltered where Roberts glided. Her courtesy calls on the Judiciary Committee's top two senators prompted conflicting tales of curious comments that she may or may not have made. Her answers to the committee's questionnaire included a misinterpretation of constitutional law and were deemed so inadequate that the panel asked her to redo it. She revealed one day that her D.C. law license had been temporarily suspended -- and said the next day that the same thing had happened in Texas -- because of unpaid dues," Charles Babington wrote in the October 21, 2005, Washington Post.

Bush and Miers in a Nutshell
"George Bush wants Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court for one reason, and one reason alone. The president -- and his minions -- want to concentrate an unprecedented amount of power in the executive branch. And Bush wants to use that power to further take away your rights, to use the military to keep order here at home -- and God knows what else." --Attytood, October 5, 2005.

Bush Knew
"... she was right there for half the cases that she would be asked to decide on, from the torture policy to third-trimester abortions to the Patriot Act to releases of documents to assisted suicide. To not believe that Bush knows is to be played for a fool once again." --The Rude Pundit, October 3, 2005. [Caution: Article contains objectionable language.]

Miers handed Bush the August 6, 2001, briefing memo
When announcing Miers as Bush's Supreme Court nominee on Monday, October 3, 2005, the New York Times published a photo of Miers "going over a briefing paper with President George W. Bush at his Crawford ranch in August 2001, the caption reads," Editor & Publisher Staff reported October 4, 2005. "USA Today and the Boston Globe carried the photo labeled simply 2001, but many other newspapers ran the picture in print or on the Web with a more precise date: Aug. 6, 2001."

"Does that date sound familiar?," E&P asks. "Indeed, that was the date, a little over a month before 9/11, that President Bush was briefed on the now-famous 'PDB' that declared that Osama Bin Laden was 'determined' to attack the U.S. homeland, perhaps with hijacked planes. But does that mean that Miers had anything to do with that briefing?

"As it turns out, yes, according to Tuesday's Los Angeles Times," E&P wrote. "An article by Richard A. Serrano and Scott Gold observes that early in the Bush presidency 'Miers assumed such an insider role that in 2001 it was she who handed Bush the crucial 'presidential daily briefing' hinting at terrorist plots against America just a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.'"

Valerie Plame
"By nominating Harriet Miers for a seat on the Supreme Court, President Bush has not simply named a member of his political staff -- and his onetime personal lawyer -- for one of the most powerful positions in the nation; he has named a staff member who was likely privy to the most confidential of material as other White House staffers planned their leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent." --Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect, October 3, 2005.

Roe v. Wade
"Miers' chief qualification for this job is loyalty to George W. Bush and the team. What the nomination means in larger terms for both law and society is the fifth vote on the court to overturn Roe v. Wade," Molly Ivins wrote October 5, 2005.

See Harriet E. Miers: Hearings


Bush Ultra-Loyalist

"While her loyalty to Bush is unquestioned, Democrats publicly and Republicans privately wondered about her qualifications for the high court." [3]

Miers, a Bush "longtime confidante," was formerly his personal lawyer in Texas and "came with him to the White House in 2001 as staff secretary, the person who screens all the documents that cross the president's desk. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff before Bush named her counsel after his reelection in November. She replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, another longtime Bush confidant, who was elevated to attorney general." [4]

Miers also "served as general counsel for the transition team of Governor-elect George W. Bush in 1994." [5]

According to her American Justice Partnership profile, in the White House Miers:

  • "was appointed Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary on January 20, 2001. As Staff Secretary, Ms. Miers acted as 'the ultimate gatekeeper for what crosses the desk of the nation's commander in chief.' In addition to this important role, Ms. Miers supervised more than 60 employees in four departments."
  • "was named Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff [in 2003]. As part of the Office of the Chief of Staff, she was a top domestic policy advisor to the President."
  • "has served as Counsel to the President since February 2005. In this role, she has served as the top lawyer to the President and the White House, and in particular has been the principal advisor [for] judicial nominations."
"Alberto Gonzales was recommended to Bush as counsel in the Texas Governorship by Harriet Miers ...." [6]

Bush was "reaching into his loyal inner circle for a pick that could reshape the nation's judiciary for years to come." [7]

Profiles

White House Biography

Upon her nomination as White House Counsel November 17, 2004, the White House issued the following biography:

"Most recently, Miers served as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary. Prior to that, she was Co-Managing Partner at Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP. Previously, she was President of Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell, where she worked from 1972 until 1999. From 1995 until 2000, she was chair of the Texas Lottery Commission. In 1992, Harriet became the first woman president of the Texas State Bar, and in 1985 she became the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association. She also served as a Member-At-Large on the Dallas City Council. Harriet received both her undergraduate and law degrees from Southern Methodist University."

Additionally, on November 17, 2005, her nomination profile included the following statement by President Bush:

"Harriet Miers is a trusted adviser, on whom I have long relied for straightforward advice. Harriet has the keen judgment and discerning intellect necessary to be an outstanding Counsel. She is a talented lawyer whose great integrity, legal scholarship, and grace have long marked her as one of America's finest lawyers. I have deep respect for Harriet and look forward to her continued counsel in this new role."

American Bar Association

Miers "concentrates her practice in the areas of commercial litigation, including antitrust and trade regulations and intellectual property disputes." [8]

Commercial Litigator

"Ms. Miers had a distinguished career as a trial litigator, representing such clients as Microsoft, Walt Disney Company and SunGard Data Systems Inc. Moreover, when she left her law firm of Locke, Liddell & Sapp, Ms. Miers was serving as Co-Managing Partner of the firm which had more than 400 lawyers." [9]

As a "commercial litigator," Miers also represented Republic National Bank. [10]

Tort Reform

Miers was the keynote speaker April 5, 2005, before the American Tort Reform Association:

"Harriet Miers, Counsel to the President, echoed the need for legal reform, saying that the President fully supports reforms to end lawsuit abuse. She pointed out that while the Class Action Fairness Act took almost seven years to pass in the Congress, the President intends to make comprehensive legal reform a priority in his second term."

Judicial "Vetting" & Obsession with Detail

When she moved into position as to White House Counsel:

"She did raise some eyebrows early in Bush's first term by arguing against eliminating the American Bar Association's 50-year-old role of vetting potential federal judiciary nominations, a move led by Gonzales. (The ABA was removed from the vetting process in March 2001.)"
"Her critics say the problem goes beyond what Miers does or doesn't know about policy -- and right back to a near-obsession with detail and process."
"'She failed in [Andrew] Card's office for two reasons,' the official says. 'First, because she can't make a decision, and second, because she can't delegate, she can't let anything go. And having failed for those two reasons, they move her to be the counsel for the president, which requires exactly those two talents.' ... Responds White House Deputy Counsel David G. Leitch: 'She certainly delegates. She couldn't possibly dream of doing any of these jobs, this job or the job she has now, without delegating.'"

Issues & Controversies

  • Miers "has never been a judge, and therefore lacks a long history of judicial rulings that could reveal ideological tendencies. Her positions on such ideologically charged issues as abortion and affirmative action are not clear. ... Her elevation to the court along with Judge Roberts would add an unknown judicial element to the nine-justice body. Ms. Miers lacks a track record that would shed light on her views." Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. "declined to be specific about his views on several key issues during his recent Senate confirmation hearings." [11]
  • Jerry D. Turner, "The Harriet Miers Story: DeLay, TRMPAC, Texas Lottery Scandal and Cleansing Bush's Guard Records," BuzzFlash, October 3, 2005.
  • "One case involved a unique law - passed under former Gov. George Bush - that blocked Texas consumers from recovering $6 billion in overcharges on car loans and allowed dealers to keep kickbacks secret. Two consumer groups have called on the Texas Legislature to repeal it. Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell were defendants of the litigation, which included auto dealers in Texas." [12]
  • "New Supreme Court nominee's ties to Bush's National Guard scandal," Attytood/Philadelphia Daily News Blog, October 3, 2005.
  • "Miers was also Chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission and responsible for a chain of events involving GTech, which ran the Texas Lottery, former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, and accusations of kick-backs and illegal contracts. Yes, that Ben Barnes, who says he helped George Bush get into the National Guard. His original deposition on that subject was given in 1999, during this Texas Lottery Commission investigation, and has been permanently sealed." [13]

Gay Rights

  • AMERICAblog's John Aravosis reported October 3, 2005, that he had "received a document from the Human Rights Campaign that appears to be a 'gay rights' questionnaire [issued by the Lesbian/Gay Political Coalition of Dallas, which] Harriet Miers filled out in 1989 when she was running for Dallas city council. (HRC says they got the document from a trusted source and thus believe it to be authentic.)"
"I'm not sure this questionnaire provides any definitive answers about Harriet Miers and gay rights - many of her answers aren't great - but it sure raises a number of questions. And I wouldn't want to be the Bush administration right about now, trying to answer why their wonder candidate was sucking up to gay groups as early as the 1980s (not that there's anything wrong with that :-)," Aravosis commented.
  • Following AMERCIAblog's posting, the Associated Press's Calvin Woodward posted "Miers Backed Gay Civil Rights" online:
"Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers went on record favoring equal civil rights for gays when she ran for Dallas city council, and she said the city had a responsibility to pay for AIDS education and patient services.
"But Miers opposed repeal of the Texas sodomy statute — a law later overturned by the court on which she will sit if confirmed — in a survey she filled out for a gay-rights group during her successful 1989 campaign."

Abortion

  • "As president of the Texas State Bar in 1993, Harriet Miers urged the national American Bar Association to put the abortion issue to a referendum of the group's full membership. She questioned at the time whether the ABA should 'be trying to speak for the entire legal community' [of about 360,000 members] on an issue that she said 'has brought on tremendous divisiveness' within the ABA," Associated Press reporter Anne Gearen wrote October 3, 2005. "Miers was among a group of lawyers from the Texas bar and elsewhere who had argued that the ABA should have a neutral stance on abortion. ... The ABA's policy-making body overwhelmingly rejected the Texas lawyers' group's 1993 proposal to put the issue to a referendum by mail."
"'Our current position (in favor of abortion rights) has no meaning unless it is endorsed in fact by the membership' Miers said at the time."
  • "Kyleen Wright, president of an anti-abortion group then known as Texans United for Life, said in an interview that Miers donated $150 to the organization as a 'bronze patron' for its annual dinner in 1989." [14]

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Reaction to Nomination

"She has a reputation for being loyal to this president, whom she has a long history of serving as a close adviser and in working to advance his objectives. In an administration intent on accumulating executive power, Ms. Miers' views on and role in these issues will be important for the Senate to examine." — Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee." [15]

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