What’s all the hubbub about?

Much of the goings on with the appointment of Harriet Miers, especially the “uproar” it has caused in conservative circles has me shaking my head.

I’m having some trouble realizing why so many people are upset about her appointment. After reading her profile via the Washington Post, all I see are good things (and many of them are shamelessly copied from the Post so go over and take a peek so I don’t feel so bad…besides it does have some nice links to other things to look at if you’re interested).

1. She’s got to be rather analytical and smart to have received a degree in mathematics; I don’t know anyone in that field who isn’t.
2. She has clerked for a district judge, so she’s not an imbecile when it comes to reading and interpreting judicial publications.
3. She was the first woman to ever be hired at Dallas’s Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely and later became the first woman president of that firm which included about 200 lawyers at that time. She was the first woman to lead a Texas firm of that size. I for one think that that is a rather large accomplishment.
4. Miers had a very distinguished career as a trial litigator, representing such clients as Microsoft, Walt Disney Co. and SunGard Data Systems Inc.
5. In 1985, Miers was selected as the first woman to become president of the Dallas Bar Association.
6. In 1992, she became the first woman elected president of the State Bar of Texas. Miers served as the president of the State Bar of Texas from 1992 to 1993.
7. She was one of two candidates for the number two position at the American Bar Association, chair of the House of Delegates, before withdrawing her candidacy to move to Washington to serve in the White House. Miers also served as the chair of the ABA’s Commission on Multi-jurisdictional Practice.
8. Miers also has been involved in local and statewide politics in Texas.
9. She has also been in Washington DC since 2001, so I assume she does know what’s going on in the Capitol.

This woman is a trailblazer and a good one at that. She has faced adversity and succeeded to become one of the most accomplished women in the field of law. I would also like to point out that one of her fellow Texans has quite a bit to say on the subject that is worth looking into. Her name is Sharolyn Wood and she is a state district court judge in Texas. If you want to read the whole letter (and I think everyone should) go here, but here are a couple of hi-lights that I think are very much worth mentioning.

Any woman lawyer in Texas who expects to be treated fairly today owes several women a tremendous debt. Chief Justice Carolyn King would be first on my list. Judge King is brilliant and has one of the sharpest legal minds I’ve ever known. When she was nominated to the 5th Circuit, there were many men who had written more law review articles and who would have been touted as the “better qualified” nominee.

Ms. Miers is also one of the “early” women who expanded the horizons for those of us who came behind her. Carolyn was denied the right to practice in the courtroom. Harriet made it.

And, getting to the courtroom was the goal. It was hard to get there. Hard to have credibility. I don’t like to dwell; yet, perhaps those who were not there need a little context to understand Harriet’s accomplishment. I was just behind Harriet. In the same time period Harriet was a second year associate, one judge ordered my arrest when I answered docket call. At another docket call, the “guys” started laughing at my announcement of “ready”, but soon were slipping out of the courtroom as it became clear that I was plenty able to represent my client and win the case. She faced these same daily challenges in the highly competitive environment of big time litigation in a “downtown” law firm. I have never heard of her complaining. She just did the job.

I see an irony with commentators using Edith Jones and Pricilla Owen as examples of better nominees. They are both wonderful jurists, and I would be overjoyed at either of their nominations. The irony–their Houston law firm did not hire women lawyers when Harriet Miers became her career. Their firm is to be congratulated for realizing that women lawyers could practice law and hiring Justices Jones and Owen. In those few years that separated them, Harriet’s break-through hiring was significant.

It is now used against Harriet that she did not write law review articles as she was too busy making sure that her performance as a trial lawyer was a role model, succeeding inside her firm to become managing partner was a role model, and volunteering in community and bar work in the public view was a role model. This is a new standard to apply to women judicial nominees from my experience. Personally, I’m glad Harriet was there for us in the real world. Every contact she had with clients, fellow litigators, judges, jurors, and older bar association leaders made it easier for the rest of us–including Edith, Pricilla, and me.

So, yes, it’s easy to say, Harriet Miers, you are not qualified–after all, all you did was make it possible for the rest of us to have a respected legal career by always being the best in everything you did.

This is the most positive review I’ve read so far about Miers and I think it is worth consideration because it comes from a woman who has become a judge where Miers blazed trails for all women in legal careers. I also think that it is important to point out the fact that the primary reason that Miers does not have law review articles is because she was doing her best to become one of the best trial lawyers on the business.
I’m also a bit confused about the angry remarks that she has no experience as a judge and that she has no “constitutional experience.” I wonder what people think that law students study if not the constitution and previous court rulings about those laws. I’ve read some of the rulings through my Health Law class and they aren’t all that easy to decipher sometimes unless you have a working knowledge of constitutional law. I’m not saying that I’m qualified to become a judge or that even someone who goes to law school is qualified, but I am saying that she does have experience with constitutional law and she is by no means ignorant of jurisprudence.

The question boils down to one thing when considering the appointments: what qualifications do we need for a Supreme Court justice? I would say that one of the primary things we need is a person of integrity who is analytical and willing to support their arguments based on what the constitution and laws say.

Many conservatives think that we need to fill the position of the next justice with someone who will rule hard-line conservative regardless of the issue presented before the court. But what we need more than that is someone who is level headed and willing to analyze the issues based on their constitutionality and justness.

2 thoughts on “What’s all the hubbub about?”

  1. keeping in mind that I am narrow-minded and fanatical — Here’s my oar. This is a very important appointment. [actually they all are] but the Supreme Court has been the subject of much prayer for the past several years. President Bush has also been the recipient of much prayer, besides being a praying man himself. I am not surprised that the enemy has stirred up a huge dust storm around her. In fact my personal opinion is that she must be better than even the President thinks to have arroused this much opposition. The opposiiton is really taking place in the spiritual realm and we are getting to observe it’s physical manifestation.

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