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Land says he trusts Bush’s judgment on Harriet Miers

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush’s devotion to his promise to appoint only judges who faithfully interpret the Constitution has led Richard Land to trust newly selected Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers minus conflicting evidence, the Southern Baptist public policy leader said Oct. 4.

Bush announced his nomination of Miers to the high court Oct. 3, surprising many, including pro-life, pro-family Americans who were hoping the president would put forward a judge with a proven conservative record on a federal appellate or state supreme court. Miers, 60, has not been a judge. She has served as an aide to Bush since he became president, first as staff secretary, then as deputy chief of staff and now as White House counsel.

The president’s record on judicial nominees is vitally important in this situation, Land indicated.

“This president has kept no promise more faithfully than his promise in 2000 and again in 2004 that he would nominate only strict constructionist, original intent jurists to the Supreme Court,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “In the face of unprecedented obstructionism, led especially by former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in the last term, this president has held fast to his promises and nominated scores of sterling and extremely competent judges.

“One of the people helping him to fulfill those campaign promises has been Harriet Miers,” he said. “She played an instrumental part in helping the president select those judicial nominees as his staff secretary, deputy chief of staff and White House counsel. She has worked closely with this president for more than a decade.

“I do not know Harriet Miers. I do know President Bush and his commitment to a federal judiciary that lives within its constitutional assignment and interprets the law and doesn’t write it from the bench,” Land said. “If the president trusts Harriet Miers to fulfill his campaign promises to the American people, then I trust Harriet Miers until I am given compelling evidence to the contrary.”

Miers’ nomination produced cautious responses from several pro-life, pro-family leaders inside and outside Congress and strong endorsement from only a few.

Some, including Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., said they would “trust but verify,” adopting a term used especially by President Reagan during his administration.

Brownback said he looked forward to learning at Miers’ Senate confirmation hearing if she is committed to the Constitution and “the rule of law.” He also expressed hope Miers “will strictly interpret the law and will not create law.”

Bush “has a long-standing working relationship with Ms. Miers, and I trust the president knows her heart and her mind,” Brownback, who has been mentioned as a candidate for president in 2008, said in a written release. “Even so, the confirmation process has just begun, and questions about her views on the Constitution need to be answered. As President Bush and President Reagan have commented in the past, in this regard I feel we must trust but verify.”

Sen. Tom Coburn, R.-Okla., like Brownback a pro-life advocate and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a brief written statement Miers “deserves a fair and thorough hearing and confirmation process. I look forward to learning more about her qualifications and judicial philosophy in the coming days.”

Gary Bauer, president of the pro-family organization American Values and a former GOP presidential candidate, said he has a “great deal of confidence in President Bush and his judicial selections. However, in this case, he has given us a nominee with even less of a written record than Chief Justice John Roberts. I, along with millions of other Americans, will wait until the confirmation hearings in order to have a better sense of her judicial philosophy.”

Roberts presided at his first oral arguments as chief justice on the same day Miers’ nomination was announced. The Senate confirmed Roberts, who had been a federal appeals court judge for two years, Sept. 29 in a 78-22 vote.

If confirmed, Miers would replace Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who announced her retirement July 1 after serving 24 years on the high court. O’Connor has agreed to remain on the bench while her replacement goes through the confirmation process.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Oct. 3 a confirmation vote on Miers’ nomination should take place by Thanksgiving.

Before moving to Washington to serve in the Bush White House, Miers was a lawyer in Texas for nearly 30 years. She became the first woman in a prominent Dallas firm in 1972 and the president of the firm in 1996. She was president of the Dallas Bar Association in the mid-1980s and presided over the Texas bar in 1992-93. She gained election to a two-year term on the Dallas City Council in 1989. While Bush was governor, he named Miers to a six-year term on the Texas Lottery Commission in 1995.

Bush’s selection of a non-judge for the high court is not rare in the Supreme Court’s history but had not occurred since 1971, when the most recent chief justice, William Rehnquist, received a nomination from President Nixon while he was an assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.

Forty-one of the 109 justices who have served on the Supreme Court had no prior judicial experience, Frist said. Fourteen justices since 1930 were not judges before being confirmed to the high court, according to The Washington Post. From 1938-41, President Franklin Roosevelt nominated five men without judicial experience to the Supreme Court, The Post reported.