October 3, 2005

IRON FIST IN A VELVET GLOVE:

Reflections of a lawyer-politician (JOYCE SAENZ HARRIS, 7/28/1991, The Dallas Morning News)

Editor's note: This High Profile first appeared in The Dallas Morning News on July 28, 1991. [...]

She may never win the title of "Most Popular" on the City Council. But Harriet Miers' friends think she's wonderful.

The Rev. Ronald Key, pastor of Valley View Christian Church, says Ms. Miers is "not above doing the small things to serve others. She would come up Sunday mornings to make coffee for the Sunday-school classes." Ms. Miers has served on the missions committee and taught children's classes, and she continues to do pro-bono legal work for her church.

Other friends describe Ms. Miers as always kind, generous and thoughtful. "She's very low-keyed and puts the spotlight on others, not on herself," says Ann Simmons, executive director of the Dallas Bar Foundation and a friend of Ms. Miers' for nearly two decades. "People will come to her for advice, and she is a good listener.

"I've heard people say she's a loner," Ms. Simmons adds. "That image comes from not jumping on the bandwagon with the majority, or with the most popular idea. She has the courage to stand for her beliefs -- even if she's the only one standing there.

"Harriet does not act on emotion, but on intellect. That's not to say she doesn't feel things deeply. But she's a very rational-type person."

Moreover, friends say, she serves her profession and her city without self-aggrandizement and without regrets for the private cost such commitment exacts. [...]

Many friends and colleagues admire Ms. Miers for breaking down barriers in the legal profession: She was the first female lawyer hired by a major Dallas firm and, in 1985, the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association. As the first woman president-elect of the State Bar of Texas, she now is preparing to serve as president in 1992-93.

Would she have run for City Council this fall if she had not been elected State Bar president? Miss Miers sidesteps the question adroitly, saying the chance to head the bar "was really a very good solution to what would have been a very difficult question. I couldn't have run (for council) as an at-large candidate," since, under 14-1, only the mayor is elected citywide.

But some of her friends think she may feel some relief at leaving council politics.

"My personal sense is, that could be the case," says Dallas attorney Darrell Jordan. "Harriet has not told me that. I'd imagine she feels comfortable dealing almost exclusively with legal issues. There'll be some politics, too, but ... I get the feeling she's pleased that that chapter in her life is coming to a close."

Ms. Miers views the State Bar presidency as a "once in a professional lifetime" chance. It is one that promises its own share of headaches, coming at a time when lawyer-bashing seems to be in vogue.

"I told her it was almost a thankless task she was about to engage in," says Dallas attorney Hayden Cooper. "We have so many lawyers and so many problems."

One major issue, that of requiring Texas lawyers to do a given amount of pro-bono work, will be due for a State Bar report to the Legislature during Ms. Miers' term. Pro-bono always has been one of her pet concerns.

"I have a very strong belief in the justice system and that it can work," she says. "I think the participants in the system have a tremendous obligation to make it work." She often frets that "we are losing a generation of children" in the fraying fabric of social injustices.

Ms. Miers, who was tapped to run by the State Bar's board of directors, won with nearly 55 percent of the vote. Some 20 percent of the lawyers in Texas are women, and doubtless many of them felt it was high time for a woman to head the State Bar. Still, Ms. Miers ran against a male candidate from lawyer-heavy Houston, and she was no shoo-in for election.

"I never saw her gender as a disadvantage (in the race)," says Mr. Jordan, who served as State Bar president in 1989-90. "But it's not necessarily an advantage, either."

The legal fraternity is still, in many cases, just that. To some male lawyers, Ms. Miers notes dryly, her candidacy "was a hard pill for them to swallow.

"When there hasn't been a woman president before, that's an issue," she says. "(But) it will never be talked about again."

"As far as the good ol' boys,' says John Estes, a partner in Locke Purnell, "yes, you've got diehards here and yonder. But most lawyers have accepted women in the profession."

While she enjoys being a role model for women lawyers, the quiet, ladylike Ms. Miers nevertheless has a strong traditionalist streak.

"She's been able to retain her femininity while bashing down walls," says friend Charlene Howell. "I think of her as steel and silk."

"An iron fist in a velvet glove," says Mr. Cooper.

"In my judgment, part of her achievements are attributable to her not being a feminist," says Morris Harrell, dean of Dallas trial lawyers and also a partner in Locke Purnell. Then he pauses to reconsider: "Hell, maybe she is a feminist. I don't know."

"She is in no way a militant," her friend Ann Simmons says. "You wouldn't find her marching in a demonstration or carrying a picket sign ... She is conservative."

Ms. Miers' professional success is "something she made herself,' Mr. Estes says. "She's a remarkable person and a remarkable woman. In that order."


This is the woman folks are now fretting will fold under the pressure of Justice Breyer.

MORE:
Miers may avert a senate storm
Democratic leader Harry Reid expresses confidence in her.
(Gail Russell Chaddock, 10/04/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

With his nomination of Harriet Miers, President Bush reduces the likelihood of a Senate fight over the critical swing seat on the Supreme Court - at least from the left. [...]

"I like Harriet Miers," said Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid, who voted against John Roberts, but urged the president to consider her as a nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

"In my view, the Supreme Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real experience as a practicing lawyer," he added, in a statement.


Miers Led Bid to Revisit Abortion Stance (ANNE GEARAN, 10/03/05, The Associated Press)

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 3, 2005 3:21 PM
Comments

Similarly, Bush once called her a "pit bull in size-6 shoes." Seems to be a theme.

The "Souter II" arguments are just as weak now as when they were made against Roberts. The accusation on "unqualified" only holds water if you believe that not having been a judge is a disadvantage.

Apparently a bunch of conservatives do, which strikes me as odd considering their dislike for the activities of so many of them.

And for those who think Reid's endorsement should be the kiss of death, keep in mind that he's theoretically pro-life.

Posted by: Timothy at October 3, 2005 4:12 PM

Maybe I missed it, but I haven't read the usual 'family biography' stuff about her. Her bio seems to begin with her legal career. I'm not complaining, but I find it interesting (e.g. is she married?).

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at October 3, 2005 4:14 PM

No, she never married.

Posted by: oj at October 3, 2005 4:17 PM

Timothy:

Yes, some of us are old enough to remember when the Roberts nomination was an unacceptable betrayal of the Right...

Posted by: oj at October 3, 2005 4:18 PM

Fred: Marvin Olasky has some info on her personal & church life. Scroll down to the first "Harriet Miers - Pro" post & keep reading.

Posted by: Timothy at October 3, 2005 4:35 PM

The shallowness of the Right's confidence in Bush is amusing to behold. It does not speak well of their broader depth.

I'm inclined to think she's a good pick, myself. I like her personal profile, and I really don't give a day's defecation that Limbaugh know anything about her.

Posted by: ghostcat at October 3, 2005 4:48 PM

Timothy:

Thanks for the link. Very interesting. I look forward to Schumer and his ilk grilling her on her evangelical faith in terms of abortion, etc.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at October 3, 2005 5:00 PM

She'll be a great justice as will Roberts. And although it will not be tested in this case, the anti-constitutional filibuster deal will unravel like a cheap suit when it is finally put to the test.

Posted by: Noel at October 3, 2005 5:00 PM

The biggest problem here, for the Right, is nobody knows everything 'W' apparently knows about her and we don't trust politicians - even the ones we like. It's driving us all nuts trying to figure out whether he's got a pair of aces under there or the seven/deuce off suit. Meanwhile, NARAL, Kos, Reid, et al seem to be happily throwing their chips into the pot way too early. So, in the absence of comforting information, we're stuck in the contrarian position that the Left's apparent passiveness cannot bode well. Some are already speculating about a deal with the devil. Will we misunderestimate him again?

Posted by: John Resnick at October 3, 2005 5:59 PM

More important, politicians can't trust judges, so W decided not to.

Posted by: oj at October 3, 2005 6:14 PM

OJ: True. That she's not a judge doesn't bother me much if at all. Rehnquist wasn't. In fact, 10 of the last 34 SCOTUS nominees weren't. True wisdom, common sense and objectivity should count at least as much as a potentially damning paper trail accumulated over years on the bench.

Posted by: John Resnick at October 3, 2005 6:24 PM

While Bush is resolute once he has a position, he can be very weak as he gropes toward it. He went to war with Iraq after a prolonged appeasement dance with the UN that cost him much credibility and every last drop of surprise. His stem cell decision was utterly mangled and ambiguous. His "third way" Medicare vote-buy was a debacle for our children who will pay for it despite OJ continuing to think it as clever as his educational giveaways to Teddy. And now this latest pick, absent any willingness to do battle with those who hate this country, absent any willingness to change New Deal America.

It is a pathetic choice, an aging liberal jurist whom Bush personally likes. OJ will now regale us with poker metaphors as Bush keeps the buses parked and lets the constitution drown.

Posted by: Palmcroft at October 3, 2005 8:01 PM

Palm:

What UN? He went as soon as the troops were in position. Actually, before they were since Turkey flagged starting some from there.

The stem cell limits worked perfectly.

Medicare got private competition for the prescription drug plan that was inevitable and HSAs in the process.

NCLB got vouchers.

Democrats don't hate the country. They have different opinions on a couple issues. Miers is likely to share yours, not theirs.

Posted by: oj at October 3, 2005 8:26 PM

[The] Medicare vote-buy was a debacle for our children who will pay for it despite OJ continuing to think it as clever...

As oj notes, the Medicare drug plan included competitive elements which should ultimately lower drug costs for all Americans.
Additionally, it ensures that a vast pool of elderly Americans, particularly the Boomers, will
be able to serve as guinea pigs for the drugs and procedures which will extend the Millenial generation's lifespan by several decades.

For them to complain about spending a few trillion dollars to receive that benefit would be churlish indeed.

...absent any willingness to change New Deal America.

New Deal America is doomed.
It's only a question of when. GenX and the Millenials will see to that.

It is a pathetic choice, an aging liberal jurist whom Bush personally likes.

What "aging" ?

She's only 60. She's likely to be a SCOTUS Justice for another 25 years.

Additionally, how many Presidents nominate people that they DON'T like ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 8:42 PM

I gave her support today in part because the choice seems to mildly annoy almost all the law professors. They, quite naturally, want interesting judges. But I think the country is better off with boring judges -- and that's what I expect her to be.

Posted by: Jim Miller at October 3, 2005 10:41 PM

Obviously the Judge Browns of the world were never in the running. Given this choice, I'm still trying to figure out why not Alberto?

Posted by: curt at October 3, 2005 11:07 PM

Jim Miller:

Speaking as a lawyer who has appeared before the Supreme Court (once), your insight is spot on.

curt:

I'm scratching my head, too. I was first in picking Gonzalez in oj's pool comments. My reasoning (undisclosed at the time) was that President Bush would pick (1) a Hispanic, and (2) someone he knew. Well, I guess one out of two ain't bad, though that won't get me the book prize. If a third vacancy arises, smart money among his readership will be overwhelmingly on Gonzalez, and I'll get aced out again, if only because I likely won't be around when oj's contest is first posted.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at October 3, 2005 11:38 PM

It depends on how coersive the White House thought Bush could be on the O'Conner replacement and/or how much pressure there would be on the usual GOP suspects -- Snow, Collins, Chaffee, Hagle, Spector and McCain -- to go against a Luttig or even a woman like Jones if they were the initial person brought before the Senate.

If you're George W. Bush and you think you're in a position of weakness, to the point that you may not get your high-profile conservative nominess through because you can't hold your rogue senators while the Democrats remain solid, you are going to take a major hit from conservatives anyway after the fact, for not doing more to get that person throughthe confirmation process. But if you really are sure of Miers' judicial beliefs, then you nominate her now and take the major hit before the Senate hearings from conservatives, while at the same time catching the liberal lobbying groups off-guard again, just as they were with Roberts.

As long as Bush is sure about both her philosophy and that she won't "grow" in office to try and ingratiate herself with the D.C. social scene, it's not a bad pre-emptive plan, even if it does promise to give conservatives at least 6-8 months of heartburn, between her nomination and her first court opinions, if she's confirmed.

Posted by: John at October 3, 2005 11:38 PM

Has anyone thought that this nominee could be a sacrificial lamb to see if the Democrats lose it and filibuster? Thus setting up a candidate like Brown.

Posted by: BillMill at October 4, 2005 2:04 AM

"She's only 60. She's likely to be a SCOTUS Justice for another 25 years."

35 years is better than 25 years.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 4, 2005 7:06 AM

A WASP woman? She could be there for fifty.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2005 7:40 AM

curt:

W may not trust him to be pro-life.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2005 7:54 AM
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