(JND) Harriet Ellan Miers (born August 10, 1945) is currently the nominee for Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. She is the current White House Counsel in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, who describes her as a “a pit bull in size 6 shoes.” She was Deputy Chief of Staff prior to her appointment as White House Counsel to replace Alberto Gonzales, who was appointed Attorney General. Prior to her service in the Bush administration she was a lawyer in private practice for 27 years, president of the Dallas Bar Association and later the State Bar of Texas (the first woman to hold that position for either organization), and a former member of the Dallas City Council. Miers has never served as a judge and has never argued a case before the Supreme Court.
Miers was nominated for the Supreme Court by Bush on October 3, 2005, to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, who announced in July her retirement pending the confirmation of a successor.
She is single and has no children. Two of her brothers and her mother live in Dallas, and a third brother lives in Houston.
Miers was born in Dallas, Texas. She attended Southern Methodist University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics (1967) and a law degree (1970). Miers clerked for Belli, Ashe, Ellison, Choulos & Lieff in 1969, and for U.S. District Judge Joe E. Estes from 1970 to 1972. She worked in private practice for the Dallas firm of Locke, Purnell, Raine & Harrell from 1972 until 1999. She was the first woman lawyer hired at the firm, and became its president. When the firm merged with a Houston firm in the 1990s, she became the co-managing partner of a legal business with more than 400 lawyers. As a commercial litigator, her clients included Microsoft and the Walt Disney Company.
In 1985, she became the first female president of the Dallas Bar Association. In 1989, she was elected to one two-year term as an at-large member on the Dallas City Council; she did not run for reelection in 1991. (The structure of the council had changed, converting her citywide seat into one representing one district, which did not interest her, she has said.) In 1992 she became the first woman to head the State Bar of Texas. She has also served as chair of the Board of Editors for the American Bar Association Journal.
Miers is a former board member of Exodus Ministries. This is not the “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International, but “a non-denominational Christian organization established to assist ex-offenders and their families become productive members of society by meeting both their spiritual and physical needs.”
Miers met George W. Bush in the 1980s, and worked as as general counsel for the transition team of Governor-elect Bush in 1994. She subsequently became Bush’s personal lawyer, and worked as a lawyer in his 2000 Presidential campaign.
Since the mid-1990s, Miers has contributed to the campaigns of various Republicans, including Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Phil Gramm, and Pete Sessions, with recorded contributions to Republican candidates and causes totaling nearly $12,000. Her earlier political history shows support for the Democratic Party during the 1980s, with recorded contributions to Democratic candidates and causes, including the Democratic National Committee, the Senate campaign of Lloyd Bentsen and the 1988 Presidential campaign of Al Gore, totaling $3,000. Her last recorded contribution to a Democratic cause or campaign was in 1988.
During George W. Bush’s term as Governor of Texas, he appointed Miers to chair the Texas Lottery Commission (1995-2000). She resigned in early 2000, a year before her term ended. She said her resignation had nothing to do with lagging sales in its biggest game, Lotto Texas, but rather that she wanted to allow her successor time to prepare for rebidding the lottery’s primary operator contract.
In January 2001 Miers followed Bush to Washington, DC, serving as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary during the first two years of his presidency. In 2003, she was appointed to Deputy Chief of Staff. In November 2004, Bush named her to succeed Alberto Gonzales, his nominee for Attorney General, to the post of White House Counsel, the chief legal advisor for the Office of the President.
She is said to be a close personal friend of the President. According to an article in Salon Magazine, October 3, 2005, Miers has called President Bush “the most brilliant man I have ever met.”
When Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement on July 1, 2005, President George W. Bush began searching for her replacement and appointed Miers as head of the search committee for potential candidates. Initially, Bush chose John G. Roberts, Jr. as O’ Connor’s replacement, but the ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist succumbed to thyroid cancer. O’Connor was asked to return to service as Bush renominated Roberts to replace Rehnquist.
Meanwhile Bush began considering Miers for the job, taking into account suggestions by ranking Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) that Bush’s nominees should be outside of the appellate court system. There is an historical parallel here, in 2000 then-candidate Bush picked Dick Cheney, the head of his Vice-Presidential nominating committee, to be his running mate.
On October 3, 2005, Bush officially nominated Miers to serve as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The subject of Roe v. Wade is highly topical in this most recent nomination, due in large part to views from both the political left and right that this landmark Supreme Court decision lacks a strong legislative foundation.
Providing significant insight into this finding, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal justice, has consistently supported abortion rights and joined in the Supreme Court’s opinion striking down Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion law in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000). However, Ginsburg has also criticized the court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade as terminating a nascent, democratic movement to liberalize abortion laws which she contends might have built a more durable consensus in support of abortion rights. Regardless of political persuasion, Roe v. Wade has been judged as a form of judicial activism that pre-empted the democratic process.
In 1993, when the American Bar Association (ABA) opted to take a stance in favor of abortion rights, Miers fought to have the members of the ABA take a full vote on the issue. “If we were going to take a position on this divisive issue, the members should have been able to vote.” Miers said in 1992 that she felt Supreme Court nominees should not be asked how they would rule on abortion.
Like Justices Earl Warren (appointed in 1953), Powell (appointed in 1971), and Rehnquist (appointed in 1971), Miers has never been a judge.
The White House notes 10 of the 34 Justices appointed since 1933, including President John Kennedy’s close friend Justice Byron White, were appointed from positions within the president’s administration.