The AP reports that a “senior administration official” confirms that President Bush will nominate Harriet Miers, currently the White House Counsel, to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. Miers has never served as a judge at any level, and her nomination appears to give the President an opportunity to push a “stealth” candidate onto the Supreme Court:
President Bush has chosen Harriet Miers, White House counsel and a loyal member of the president’s inner circle, to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, a senior administration official said Monday.
If confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Miers, 60, would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the nation’s highest court.
Miers, who has never been a judge, was the first woman to serve as president of the Texas State Bar and the Dallas Bar Association.
Without a judicial record, it’s difficult to know whether Miers would dramatically move the court to the right. She would fill the shoes of O’Connor, a swing voter on the court for years who has cast deciding votes on some affirmative action, abortion and death penalty cases.
After the tussle back and forth on the day the White House announced Roberts’ nomination, I’d normally take this with a grain of salt. However, at the same time that the AP reported this, the GOP sent out an info sheet on Harriet Miers confirming her nomination. They want to provide plenty of ammunition for the President’s supporters on the choice of Miers, so it doesn’t appear that this is a trial balloon or a dodge for a different candidate.
Miers does answer two big criticisms of John Roberts raised by the Democrats during his confirmation hearings. Miers has extensive trial litigation experience, and she also has held public office, although she limited her political career to the Dallas City Council. Her work on cleaning up the Texas Lottery Commission will look good in terms of real-world experience, and her connections at the American Bar Association will also smooth some rough sailing.
All that being said, I find this pick mystifying. Miers just turned 60 years old, not exactly ready to retire but potentially giving up at least a decade for the Bush legacy on the Supreme Court. Other women with judicial experience and/or a stronger track record of conservatism could have been found. She didn’t graduate from a top-drawer legal school (SMU), and she didn’t clerk for a highly influential jurist (US District Judge Joe Estes).
Not only does Harriet Miers not look like the best candidate for the job, she doesn’t even look like the best female candidate for the job. If judicial experience is a liability, why not Maureen Mahoney, who is younger, has argued cases at the Supreme Court, and worked within the Deputy Solicitor’s Office after clerking for William Rehnquist? Better yet, why not nominate J. Michael Luttig or Michael McConnell, with their brilliant and scholarly approaches to the law and undeniable qualifications through years of judicial experience? Why not Edith Hollan Jones, if Bush wanted to avoid the confrontation that Janice Rogers Brown would have created?
Miers may make a great stealth candidate, but right now she looks more like a political ploy. Color me disappointed in the first blush.