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.
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