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FIRST-PERSON: Many crucial things unclear about Miers

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–How do I know whether to support George W. Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court? How do I know what kind of justice she will be?

After tracking the news for the past few days, there are some things about Miers that are clear. She is undoubtedly a hard-working and zealous advocate for her clients. No lawyer gets to be staff secretary, deputy chief of staff and then counsel to the president of the United States unless she has those traits in abundance.

Meirs is a born-again believer in Jesus Christ who is a member of a conservative, evangelical church. That is heartening.

I have learned that Miers is willing to make sacrifices in her personal life in order to be the best lawyer she can be. She has never been married. She has no children. She has a reputation for being the first one in the office and the last one to leave.

It is also clear that Miers is well-respected in the legal community. The Dallas County Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association both made her the first female president of those organizations. In her role as a leader of Texas lawyers, she made a positive impression by urging them to step up their pro bono (i.e. for free) legal work for indigent clients.

But there are too many crucial things about Miers that are unclear. There are no legal opinions to review. She has not authored any law review articles. One article she wrote for “Arizona Attorney” in 2001, titled “American Bar Association Study of Multistate Practices is on Fast Track,” was basically an insider piece that did not take any substantive stands on anything of importance to the nation.

In terms of her personal opinions on topics of public concern, Miers virtually defines the phrase “flying under the radar.”

I have absolutely no idea what kind of justice she will be. Being an excellent lawyer is not a reliable indicator of what kind of justice she will make. It is a basic tenet of being a lawyer that personal opinions are put aside in order to fully and faithfully carry out ethical obligations to clients. More than once when I was practicing law I advocated the legal rights of clients whose religious beliefs I abhorred, even when those very beliefs were the issue in the cases.

And that article Miers wrote for the “Arizona Attorney”? It shows me that Miers is cozy with the American Bar Association. In fact, speaking as a former member of the ABA and a political conservative, if all I had to go on was Miers’ relationship with the ABA, I would not favor her confirmation to the Supreme Court.

The ABA is no friend of conservatives. It has taken vocal public stands against the death penalty, in favor of abortion and in support of homosexual rights.

Miers has a longstanding involvement with the ABA. It was not an incidental or tangential relationship. She chaired at least one of its committees. Her unsuccessful attempts to get the ABA to back off an endorsement of abortion rights did not lead her to resign from the organization, or denounce it publicly, or in any other way disassociate herself from it. In fact, later as a member of Bush’s legal team in 2001, Miers argued against ending the ABA’s role in evaluating judicial nominees.

I know that being a member of the ABA is not an indication of Miers’ stands on the hot-button legal issues of the day. But there is nothing else to go on.

Ironically, what we do not need on the Supreme Court is an insider, status-quo-favoring, stay-in-the-background type of person. Ironically, overturning Roe v Wade — which like it or not is the law of the land -– is going to take a bold, activist conservative justice with a track record of opposing that ruling and seeing the many constitutional flaws in it. Miers is not anything close to that type of candidate.

I am dubious about this nomination. I am not confident that Miers will do for our American jurisprudence what someone like Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas would do.

What this nomination comes down to is this: How much do I trust George W. Bush? Do I trust him to put a genuine conservative justice on the bench? He has already admitted he has never talked with Miers about her views on the constitutionality of Roe v Wade.

The history of appointments by conservative Republican presidents does not bode well for trusting Bush on this one. There is less to go on in evaluating Miers than any appointee in the past 20 years. Besides, I am not sure I trust anyone that much, this side of glory.
Brent Thompson practiced law for eight years and is an inactive member in good standing of two state bar associations. Currently he is the associate director of public relations at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

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  • Brent Thompson