Calling her a “trailblazer” who has “devoted her life to the rule of law,” President Bush nominated his former personal lawyer and current White House Counsel Harriet Ellan Miers as the replacement for retiring Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor on Monday (October 3).
Miers, whom Bush has called a trusted advisor and a “pit bull in size-six shoes,” was a staff secretary in the White House before being bumped up to counsel last November when Alberto Gonzalez became attorney general. She has no experience as a judge.
“In selecting a nominee, I sought to find an American of grace, judgment and unwavering devotion to the Constitution and laws of our country. Harriet Miers is just such a person,” Bush said in a press conference Monday morning. “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.”
After graduating from Southern Methodist University with a law degree, Miers, 60, served one term on the Dallas City Council and in 1992 became the first woman president of the Texas State Bar Association. From 1995 until 2000, she was the chair of the Texas Lottery Commission. Miers was the first woman hired at the prestigious Dallas law firm Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP, where she worked from 1972 until 1999, according to her White House bio.
The president met Miers in the 1980s, and she served as general counsel for his 1994 campaign for governor. After his victory, he appointed her to the lottery chair position.
Like Vice President Dick Cheney, who led the search for a vice presidential nominee before choosing himself, Miers headed the team searching for O’Connor’s replacement and ended up choosing herself.
The unusual pick is another example of the president’s well-documented go-from-the-gut style of leadership, recently criticized in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as former Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown’s qualifications were questioned (see “Embattled FEMA Boss Michael Brown Resigns” ).
“Harriet has built a reputation for fairness and integrity,” the president said. “I believe the senators of both parties will find that Harriet Miers’ talent, experience and judicial philosophy maker her a superb choice to safeguard the constitutional liberties and equality of all Americans.”
While both sides were bracing for a potentially contentious battle over Bush’s second Supreme Court nominee, Democrats had already pegged Miers as an acceptable choice to replace O’Connor, who cast deciding votes on cases involving affirmative action, abortion and the death penalty (see “Bush’s Supreme Court Picks Could Tilt The Scales On Abortion, Gay Marriage” ).
“I am very grateful for the confidence in me that you’ve shown by this nomination, and certainly I am humbled by it,” said Miers, who, if confirmed, would be the court’s 110th justice. Throughout three decades of legal practice, Miers said she has always had a “great respect and admiration for the genius that inspired our Constitution and our system of government.”
All during the search, the president — as well as first lady Laura Bush — had made it clear they hoped to name a woman to replace O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, who announced in July that she would be stepping down from the bench after 24 years (see “Sandra Day O’Connor, First Woman Supreme Court Justice, Announces Retirement” ). “It is the responsibility of every generation to be true to the founder’s vision of the proper role of the courts in our society,” Miers said. “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 obligation to strictly apply the laws and the Constitution.”
The announcement comes as John G. Roberts Jr. takes his seat as the 17th Supreme Court Chief Justice (see “John Roberts Confirmed As Nation’s 17th Supreme Court Chief Justice “ ).