October 03, 2005

Harriet Who?

Is this all a bad dream? Or is this really who the President is seeking to have confirmed to the Supreme Court in the post-Brownie era? I'm somewhat flabbergasted, I have to say. One of the (very) few things that has impressed me of Bush of late was his willingness to not buy into all the 'diversity' hoopla and pick a hugely qualified judge to lead the Supreme Court. He did that, in spades, with John Roberts. But, in one shot, he's now squandered all that good will. Yes, yes, I know, she's hard-working, smart, loyal, had a quite distinguished career as a practitioner in a Dallas firm, was a fine Lottery Commissioner of Texas, and so on. But there are vastly more qualified individuals worthy of putting on our greatest court. I repeat: vastly. This is worse than Poppy's cynical appointment of a relatively under-qualified Clarence Thomas--who at least appeared to have enough relevant experience that he wouldn't require a decent dollop of on-the-job-training (at 60!). I'm hugely underwhelmed.

Look, it's not even that this is so transparently placing a loyalist on the court who will be predictably Executive Branch/GWOT-friendly in her opinions (with some evangelical & crude originalist shadings perhaps? ed. note: By crude I mean originalism without the intellectual firepower of a Scalia). It's not just that it's a lame diversity play (Bush couldn't stop talking about all the glass ceilings she had burst through today). It's not even that she was never a judge, as there have been quite a few private sector attorneys appointed to the bench who served with distinction.

It's ultimately that she's just not Supreme Court timber. Harry Reid can cheer-lead her if he wishes, showing major Democrats don't care a whit about serious constitutional credentials on the bench either, but those of us who are proud of this court must demand better. We should root for her defeat--perhaps by an alliance of thinking Republicans and Democrats. The Achilles heel of this President has become such displays of bovine worship at the altar of some warped conception of loyalty. Be loyal, yes, but demand excellence and competence and, yes, accountability in critical postings dear God! I'm now forced to conclude that Bush, after such a hugely good show with Roberts, is nevertheless willing to be unserious and even reckless, more so than his father, with appointments to the highest court in our land. Look, she might prove a Scalia rubber-stamp, and conservatives will be happy that she votes 'right' (the coded message Cheney was peddling today to Limbaugh). But a man of character and vision wouldn't stoop to such a low threshold of what makes a good SCOTUS pick. He would look for an intellectual leader, a bona fide constitutional thinker. We all know who they are, and that there were far more distinguished picks available. Instead, Bush went for a relative mediocrity. This is not to take anything away from a woman who has had a very distinguished career in private practice. No, Locke Liddell & Sapp is not Covington or Williams & Connolly or Cravath or Sullivan & Cromwell. Still, it's a decent firm in an important American city that she rose to co-head. But a hard-working law firm manager, a decent litigator, a tough cookie who gets results--these are not the credentials for our highest court. Nor should it be merely dogged loyalty to a President. What matters is serious intellectual depth, profound understanding of constitutional law, potential greatness. She fails on all three counts. And, with all due respect to a successful private sector attorney, I have to say rather dismally.

Posted by Gregory at October 3, 2005 03:00 PM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

You have high standards, my boy. Is there anyone on the present court other than Scalia who would have met your criteria at the time of their appointment? Harriet Miers is a solid, conservative pick. The conservative intelligentsia should be glad that Bush is saving them from themselves. While the McConnells and Luttigs could well help Scalia change the overall legal landscape, from a political perspective, that may not be a good thing for conservatives. While principles do matter, I don't think that a majority of American would like where a Scalia-led court would take us. As the victories of the Warren court led to a conservative resurgence, the victories of a Scalia court could well swing the tide the other way. Take the results and don't worry so much about the legal principles.

Posted by: Steven D at October 4, 2005 01:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I do not think you appreciate the difficulty of going from nowhere to running a 400 lawyer law firm, becoming the president of the state bar in one of the largest states in the union, and serving with distinction at three levels of government, local, state and national. Those qualifications are pretty impressive, especially when the law firm job and state bar jobs are as a "first."

What should get your attention is that, like Roberts, Meirs has a history of seekong a consensus. If those two can get more single opinion decisions, this will be a wonderful appointment.

Why don't you do something constructive and start a rumor that Souter may be interested!

Posted by: rich at October 4, 2005 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Take the results and don't worry so much about the legal principles" is exactly the wrong thing to say. Principles matter, and in few places do they matter more obviously than in Supreme Court judging. If the Court has principles, then the legislature can pass laws which, when interpreted under those principles, will form the desired government.

If a Court seeks results rather than principles, then two things will happen. First, the Court will seek to minimize legislative decisions which do not lead to results it likes (Roper, anyone?). Second, the results sought by the Court will not be completely in opposition to those sought by the legislatures, so there will be a de facto division of labor between them, increasing the net amount and intrusiveness of government.

To hell with results -- let's have some principles.

Posted by: sammler at October 4, 2005 10:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm somewhat flabbergasted, I have to say. One of the (very) few things that has impressed me of Bush of late was his willingness to not buy into all the 'diversity' hoopla and pick a hugely qualified judge to lead the Supreme Court. He did that, in spades, with John Roberts.

You sexism is showing.

Roberts' resume wasn't all that impressive, unless you are a big fan of high-priced lawyers who get dizzy because of the time they spend in the revolving door between high-priced law firms (when the Dems are running the Executive) and political patronage jobs (when the GOP is in charge.) Roberts primary qualifications were his ability to not answer questions, and to have the right "look." But to praise Bush's pick of Roberts for Chief Justice, and then trash Miers for not being "highly qualified", demonstrates that you are far more critical of women who are not "the best" than you are of heterosexual, strong-jawed, handsome white men.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 4, 2005 01:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with you, Greg --- Harriet Miers is a third-rate choice for the Supreme Court, even though her likely moderation appeals to my politics. But frankly, I would much rather have a more conservative but far more intellectually powerful choice in the line of Roberts than a political crony pick like Miers, approved by Reid or not. The only thing that surprises me in your take, Greg, is how shocked you seem to be that this President would do something like this --- time and again you keep giving this President way too much benefit of the doubt, trying to read some sort of intelligence into his lurchings, when in fact you really have to admit at this point that the problem with Bush is hardly "recklessness" --- it's incompetence. He's not being reckless in nominating Miers, he simply doesn't know any better. That this should come as news to someone as obviously intelligent as you really is a surprise. Wake up, Greg. Time to get off the bus.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 4, 2005 03:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's hardly sexist to point out that summa cum laude from Harvard as an undergraduate, magna cum laude from Harvard Law, and managing editor of the Review is a bit more impressive than a couple of degrees from SMU.

It's hardly sexist to point out that clerking for Jusge Friendly and SCJ Rehnquist is a bit more impressive than clerking for a minor judge.

It's hardly sexist to point out that arguing 52 cases before the Supreme Court is a bit more impressive than..well, NOT EVEN BEING A MEMBER OF THE SUPREME COURT BAR.

If you think Miers resume is comparable in any way, shape, or form to Roberts, than you, madame, are deluded.

Posted by: George Purcell at October 4, 2005 03:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Are we sure Harry Reid is really cheer leading? I bet that initial democratic support is political posturing to make eventual opposition seem more reasoned. I say this as someone who leans lightly left: it's what I would do. Plus, he knows it will madden those on the far right. You could here it in his voice: "I just loooooooove Harriet!" You could feel conservative bloggers cringing through their keyboards ("I refuse to endorse anything that makes Reid so... smug! Grrr.")

As far as credentials go, I'm not optimistic but I have not given up hope that she's a closeted intellectual. The confirmation process is long and gruelling. By the end, it should be pretty clear whether or not she has a strong compass and a thorough grasp of constitutional law. There's only so much cramming you can do between now and the hearings. We can only hope that the questions are probing enough that if she really is not qualified, there will be a bi-partisan smack-down. Deep down inside I have this (perhaps naive) hope that although the left and right fight about judicial philosophy, both sides can agree that a weak mind on the Supreme Court can be more dangerous than a differently aligned philosophy.

Posted by: Tom Wood at October 4, 2005 03:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

George, don't you understand that bringing up perfectly reasonable, rational, real-world comparisions between Roberts and Miers is no defense against the generic charge of "sexism"?

(or else you just have to ignore egregious trolls like lukasiak ... )

Posted by: Taras Bulba at October 4, 2005 04:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, your points are excellent. I for one am tired of hearing how being manager of a 400 person law firm, or being a bar association officer, or being a Texas Lottery Commissioner is somehow qualification for being a Justice on the Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justices are not managers. And the fact that Miers spent so much time doing this work instead of the kind of appellate and constitutional practice that is done in the Supreme Court suggests to me that: 1) she isn’t interested in it, 2) she isn’t competent to do it, or 3) both. Nothing in her record suggests otherwise. This nomination is appalling.

Posted by: Eric Twelker at October 4, 2005 05:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Miers entered law school in 1967, at a time when women were still extremely discriminated against in the legal profession. Roberts was lucky enough to get into the "old boy network" of the Ivy League law schools---do well there, are you are practically guaranteed a prestigeous clerkship. The fact that a woman from SMU was asked to clerk for a Federal District Court judge in 1970 says far more about her accomplishments than some Ivy League political hack clerking for Rhenquist.

Miers took the road that was available to her at a time when the same kind of sexist attitude that you are displaying here were considered socially acceptable. She excelled at her profession against far greater odds than Roberts----Roberts got into Harvard, and had the right connections that smoothed his progress from then on out.

And i fail to see the relevance of appearing before the Supreme Court in terms of "qualifications" to be chief justice.

But of course, that's how sexism works ---- suddenly, irrelevant considerations become crucial when a man is compared to a woman....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 4, 2005 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My suspicion is that Bush made this decision with his famous "gut," rather from long contemplation of Miers’ philosophical view of the law. Today he claimed he and she had never discussed Roe in all the years they've known each other. If that's even slightly true, my point is made.

And how deep do you think Bush's understanding of legal theory is? And of what he knows, where did he learn it? From his attorney?

Bush continues to stress her "character" as her most important qualification. That is telling. For an originalist, the "character" of the judge is irrelevant to proper exegesis of the law. Character is for legislators and executives: people who make policy decisions. Judges shouldn’t be making policy decisions; their personal inclinations as to what the law SHOULD be are irrelevant to determining "what the law is." An originalist opposes Roe not because he is pro-life, but because he doesn't think the Constitution speaks to the issue. If Miers thinks like Bush, she is probably a social conservative who will interpret the law to yield an outcome she thinks is “moral” rather than legally correct. She is apparently an enthusiastic evangelical.

I’m beginning to understand the left’s boundless contempt for this man.

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 4, 2005 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The fact that a woman from SMU was asked to clerk for a Federal District Court judge in 1970 says far more about her accomplishments than some Ivy League political hack clerking for Rhenquist."

No, it doesn't, especially not when you consider the field of competition Roberts faced at Harvard Law and later in the profession. Miers just isn't in Robert's league intellectually or professionally.

As for the "old boys' network" issue you raise, you really need to rethink how loudly you yell about that when defending Miers.

Take GW Bush out of Robert's life and you have the same man at the same professional level. Take GW Bush out of Miers life and, well, she's just another hard working lawyer at a large law firm. Such lawyers are a dime a dozen...or $500 an hour, anyway. Miers is just no great shakes. Large, medium and small cities are lousy with smart, capable, competent lawyer-grinds like her. But guys like Roberts? Much more rare.

Roberts life was certainly eased by his upper middle class background. But when he entered Harvard, Harvard Law and the DC legal profession, it was no longer the case that he could have dad call up buddies and make things happen absent Roberts' undeniable talent and hard work.

You can make arguments for Miers, I suppose, but saying she is somehow comparable to Roberts or even playing in his league? That doesn't pass the laugh test for many in the legal profession, even those who recognize the challenges women faced in the 1970s.

She has admirable qualities. But she isn't a good pick in this situation. I hope she is denied by the Senate and a better candidate chose..

Posted by: passing by at October 4, 2005 06:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The fact that a woman from SMU was asked to clerk for a Federal District Court judge in 1970 says far more about her accomplishments than some Ivy League political hack clerking for Rhenquist."

No, it doesn't, especially not when you consider the field of competition Roberts faced at Harvard Law and later in the profession. Miers just isn't in Robert's league intellectually or professionally.

As for the "old boys' network" issue you raise, you really need to rethink how loudly you yell about that when defending Miers.

Take GW Bush out of Robert's life and you have the same man at the same professional level. Take GW Bush out of Miers life and, well, she's just another hard working lawyer at a large law firm. Such lawyers are a dime a dozen...or $500 an hour, anyway. Miers is just no great shakes. Large, medium and small cities are lousy with smart, capable, competent lawyer-grinds like her. But guys like Roberts? Much more rare.

Roberts life was certainly eased by his upper middle class background. But when he entered Harvard, Harvard Law and the DC legal profession, it was no longer the case that he could have dad call up buddies and make things happen absent Roberts' undeniable talent and hard work.

You can make arguments for Miers, I suppose, but saying she is somehow comparable to Roberts or even playing in his league? That doesn't pass the laugh test for many in the legal profession, even those who recognize the challenges women faced in the 1970s.

She has admirable qualities. But she isn't a good pick in this situation. I hope she is denied by the Senate and a better candidate chose..

Posted by: passing by at October 4, 2005 06:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ms Miers simply is not at the top tier of potential candidates for the Supreme Court. By no criteria is she in the top ten in the country, or even the top 50.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of women (and men, or course) who have MANAGED large law firms, or served as the first managing partner. More interesting would be if the law firm respected her legal abilities to have her serve as their top litigator on high profile cases, or as the person they turned to when arguing a case at the appelate or Supreme Court level. Roberts was the person that many clients turned to to argue at the Supreme Court, and that is a powerful credential. When Bush needed someone to represent him at the Supreme Court (e.g., the 2000 election count) he did NOT turn to Miers.

There are dozens of women (and men, or course) who have served as head of state Bar associations. That is an impressive crediential (better than say, judging Arabian Horse competitions), but not the calibre of credential that makes one worthy of being nominated to the Supreme Court for a lifetime appointment.

Bush clearly does not respect excellence and intelligence, any more than his father did when he said (wink wink) that Clarence Thomas was the MOST qualified person.

Posted by: Rich Cohen at October 4, 2005 06:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak - Where did you go to law school?

I understand why people denigrate the credentials of someone like Roberts or Miguel Estrada, but to those of us in the legal profession, that just demonstrates your ignorance of the profession. (Full disclosure: yes, I went to Harvard Law).

Miers has an impressive resume, but I concur with Eric Twelker on this: an awful lot of that resume is away from the courtroom. If she had a demonstrated intellectual pedigree, the years away from the courtroom wouldn't bother me; if she'd been out there as prominent practitioner, the lack of a fancy law degree wouldn't bother me. It's the combination of the two that makes me nervous.

Posted by: Crank at October 4, 2005 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak - You are making some better points here than you did over at Cole's place. But I still have to disagree and wonderif you are over-defending Miers because she is a woman rather than actually successfully advocating for her...

She's not a good pick—man, woman, black, white or otherwise. Not for the Supreme Court anyway...

Posted by: Mr Furious at October 4, 2005 08:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I do find it interesting that gregory could compose his entire post without ever referring to Miers by name...a lot of "she's" there. Just saying...

Posted by: Mr Furious at October 4, 2005 08:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"(Full disclosure: yes, I went to Harvard Law)."

Some people live mainly to drop the inaptly-named "H-Bomb" whenever they can.

Posted by: passing by at October 4, 2005 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Miers has no experience as an appellate litigator. She has no experience in constitutional litigation. Roberts was the heavyweight in Hogan's appellate group and had great experience arguing before the court.

Miers went to SMU and SMU law. Roberts was Harvard, summa in three years, magna at HLS, editor of the Law Review and clerked at both the circuit level and at the Supreme Court. There were women at Harvard Law in the late 1960's.

Miers never worked in the Office of the Solicitor General nor did she work in the Office of Legal Counsel - the principal places in the executive branch you would gain experience working on constitutional questions. Roberts did and also served as a Special Assistant to the AG.

Five years ago, Miers moved paper for the President. She was the staff secretary. That is a challenging job, surely, but not the farm team for the Supreme Court.

Miers has never served on the bench. Roberts served in the DC circuit, albeit for a short length of time. Of those former justices who did not have judicial experience, most of them had compelling resumes. Rehnquist had the experience in the SG Office. Byron White was a Rhodes Scholar, first in his class at Yale Law, and a professional athlete. Harriet Miers was a Lottery Commisioner.

I don't know whether she will judge the "right" way - no one really knows about her opinions but the President - but surely if that were the only criteria, we could put just about any hack on the Court. There must be a higher standard.

I am profoundly disappointed in the President on this one.

Posted by: Patrick at October 4, 2005 09:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The fundamental problem in all the analyses of Ms. Miers' qualifications is the assumption that Mr. Bush & his team were primarily concerned about the legacy they'd leave with respect to the Supreme Court.
Scenarios:
1. Ms. Miers is denied by the Senate by a bipartisan vote. As long as Bush can hold up a few heavy-weight Republicans who voted for her, they've created a midterm election issue. And he still gets to nominate someone, just in time for it to be a 2006 election issue.
2. Ms. Miers is denied by the Senate by a vote of most Democrats and very few Republicans. Again, a wedge issue for the elections, only now a bigger wedge.
3. Ms. Miers is confirmed with strong Republican support, but tepid Democratic support. They still get to campaign against "obstructionists".
4. Ms. Miers is confirmed with strong Democratic support, but tepid Republican support. This is the worst option from the election perspective, but Bush still wins in the sense that his nominee won.
5. Ms. Miers is confirmed with strong bipartisan support. See #4, but Bush wins even bigger by having his nominee win big.

In terms of the impact to the court, she leans right and that's the only litmus test he has anyway. In the end, it's all about elections, not governance, with this President. When's the next election? Does it matter that he's not running, when it's clear they're more concerned about an ongoing Republican majority?

Posted by: 3geez at October 4, 2005 09:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak - You are making some better points here than you did over at Cole's place.

the people here are smarter, so I try harder :)

But I still have to disagree and wonderif you are over-defending Miers because she is a woman rather than actually successfully advocating for her...

I'm not defending Miers -- I just don't think that Roberts was any more qualified to be Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court than Meirs is qualified to be an Associate Justice. IMHO, the only real resume qualification for the highest court in the land is extensive judicial experience----and a Chief Justice needs to have even more experience. Harvard Law School doesn't impress me, clerkships don't impress me, and "reputations" certainly don't impress me--- especially given the corporate law world where Roberts earned that "reputation."

....and I think that the difference in perception of Roberts' and Miers' relative qualifications is based far more on the same sexist "stacked deck" than it is on reality. They are both essentially corporate/political hack lawyers without the extensive judicial experience that their positions demand --- and pretending that Roberts was somehow highly qualified while Miers is unqualified is a reflection of gender bias more than Roberts being far more qualified for his job.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 5, 2005 12:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regarding her time as Lottery Commissioner:


What, praytell, does a Lottery Commissioner *do*?

Keep an eye on the security at the scratch-off printers, monitor the retail lottery machine business and maintenance, maybe go on-camera to draw the numbers once or twice a week. Approve marketing campaigns. Watch the lottery bank accounts and move money to the government coffers for public use. Sign the big prize checks.

It's not exactly a hotbed of activity, I wouldn't think. Nothing a lawyer is ever going to aspire to. An accountant would arguably be much better. (I suppose her math degree could make her a good choice, as she'd have a good head for the prize odds. ) But, really, most anyone could do it. I doubt there are even that many employees - most of the work is done by clerks at convenience stores and liquor stores.

It's a sinecure.

Posted by: Jon H at October 5, 2005 01:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


To answer my own question, the Texas Lottery Commissioners don't seem to do very much at all.

Judging by this job ad for an Executive Director, who reports to the Commission, it seems the E.D. does all the work.

Why, exactly, is anyone supposed to be impressed by a stint as a commissioner?

Posted by: Jon H at October 5, 2005 01:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
the people here are smarter, so I try harder :)
Agreed. As a newcomer, a non-lawyer and just a general lightweight, it's rather intimidating...
I'm not defending Miers -- I just don't think that Roberts was any more qualified to be Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court than Meirs is qualified to be an Associate Justice.
I hear what you're saying. I agree that Roberts is better suited to Associate than Chief as well. His experience is also limited compared to some others supposedly considered...but he seems worlds better prepared than Miers. Simply, the gap between Roberts and Miers seems much wider than the gap between Associate and Chief Justice. I'd consider him basically qualified for the Court and it is a smaller stretch to skip him up to Chief. I just think Miers needs some time at triple-A. Posted by: Mr Furious at October 5, 2005 04:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK, here are the disclosures. Columbia Law '68, Henry Friendly clerkship 68-69, 32 years of practice, Judge pro tem/judicial arbitrator SF Superior Court for twenty years. Retired from law practice.

Luka, you are not being either reasonable or realistic about Roberts. You do not get the honors, the clerkships, or the positions that fill his resume without being brilliant and extraordinarily competent. You may disagree with his politics, or better, his presumed politics, but to call him a hack is absurd. He was, perhaps, the most qualified of any of the possible candidates from the standpoint of highly competent understanding of the nuances of Constitutional law, writing ability, intellectual acuity, experience at advocacy at this level, and a deep understanding of the role of the Judiciary in our form of government. I also think that you should celebrate his appointment. I think he will turn out to be far more moderate than the left fears and in fact, will provide an intellectual balance to Scalia that will keep the Court just about where it has been rather than nudging it to the right. That would be fine with me.

I also think that Robert's appointment illustrates something that the left's blind hatred of Bush prevents them from seeing. Bush may speak to the far right wing of the Republicans, but like Reagan, he acts in a far more moderate fashion.

As for Miers, the appointment is politically brilliant and notwithstanding the absence of conventional Constitutional experience, she brings a great deal of much needed practical perspective to the Court. It is that perspective that has been so sorely lacking in recent decisions as for example, the recent eminent domain decision that completely omitted the addressing the Fifth Amendment standards for compensation when property is condemned. Let me take one of these at a time.

The entire far left establishment has been raising funds, rallying, and gearing up for a monster of a fight over this nomination. From the Howard Deans to the MoveOn gang, to Chuck Schumer, the thought of blood on the waters has been an irrepressible dream. Afterall, a great public brahaha that sinks a Bush nomination would clear the way to victory in 2006 and the White House two years later. They were all set for the attack when Bush nominated Roberts and the opposition turned out to be pretty wimpy, not because they didn't have the resources, the champions, the zeal, but because they couldn't find anything substantial to fight about. In some sense they should have been grateful in that they could conserve their resources for the full scale attack that was to come as soon as Justice O'Conner's seat came under nomination.

However, Bush out maneuvered these warriors of the left once again. By selecting what, in essence is a competent, but non-controversal women, Bush removed all of the strawman targets that the left had already set up in anticipation of the nomination. Even Luka is defending her! I never thought I would see the day. I think Bush will win this one too and what will be the result? He will have successfully nominated a basically moderate conservative, perhaps a bit too far to the right for some tastes, but a obviously very intelligent person with vast practical business experience, substantial administrative experience, and most importantly, one well schooled in group dynamics. Once again, Bush has shown that while he gives lip service to the far right, his notion of how the country should be governed is based on a more moderate perspective. You need only consider the attacks that he is getting from the conservative press to see the accuracy of this analysis.

In trying to predict what kind of justice she will be, it is helpful, I submit, to remember that the Supreme Court decides cases as a group. While one justice is assigned to write the majority opinion, that opinion is the result of considerable group and individual deliberation. Within the group there are complex dynamics influenced by many factors including, but not limited to (as we lawyers are want to say), the personalities of the justices, their familiarities with the subject matter of the case, the values that are at stake and how these values are considered by each of the justices, the respect for each other's perspectives, and many other factors not the least of which is general respect for precedent. Frankly, I like the idea of a woman or women on the Court, and I feel strongly that hetrogenuity in backgrounds is an enormous plus, even if that means that some justices have not been sloshing around in Constitutional muck all of their lives. While Roberts may prove to be the consummate technician with regard to Constitutional nuance, he has more than enough of that technical ability to make one confident that the Court's decisions will be well anchored in the true Constitutional tradition regardless of Miers' specific experience with Constitutional law. After all, most law students gain mastery over this subject in about 15 weeks.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at October 5, 2005 07:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am going to agree that I suspect Roberts will turn out to be more moderate than most on the left fear. However, I have to say that the simple fact that Miers has called President Bush "the most brilliant man I have ever met" suggests a bit of impoverishment in either her own intellect or the company she has kept (well, it suggests both). It is admittedly thin evidence on which to doubt someone's intellectual firepower, but that plus the lack of other past distinctions that would indicate otherwise gives me great pause. Yes, she's probably somewhat middle of the road politically but she definitely pales compared to everyone else on the Court, even the rather eccentric and bizarre Justice Thomas. I am uncomfortable with that because I worry she will issue erratic opinions.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 5, 2005 09:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not being a SCOTUS expert, I'll bypass any comment on Ms. Meirs qualification. She's got the one quality that Mr. Bush wants, loyalty. And a loyal Scalia rubberstamp that might be able to breeze through the hearings gets Bush past the need for the nuclear option. I think they got it that the change of Senate rules can be hazardous if the Senate goes Democratic.
She'll be the one thing Justice O'Connor wasn't; a steady vote when one is needed in those pesky principled cases that could go against the Cheney-BushCo cabal.
There's no need to placate the Christers, they're more useful when hungry. Besides, where are they going to go? Brownback, Santorum?

Posted by: clamflats at October 6, 2005 02:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka, you are not being either reasonable or realistic about Roberts. You do not get the honors, the clerkships, or the positions that fill his resume without being brilliant and extraordinarily competent. You may disagree with his politics, or better, his presumed politics, but to call him a hack is absurd.

Roberts entire professional career (and lets dispense with the idea that achievements in college qualify one for the top legal position in the nation, shall we?) has been to operate as a political/corporate hack advocating for the advancement of the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world. There is no question that he was good at it ---- and when you are good at helping out the rich and powerful, its unsurprising that you get lots of praise from those folks, and the organizations that they control.

But being highly competent in figuring out acceptable legal arguments for the continued benefit of the rich and powerful is not, IMHO, a qualification for the US Supreme Court. I'd like to see some evidence that Roberts gives a damn about protecting the rights of the poor and those who suffer at the hands of those who are wealthy and powerful......and there is scant evidence of it. He is little more than the legal equivalent of Karl Rove ---- someone for whom the pursuit of power was an end in itself, and who consistently sought out clients who could advance his own interests.

He's a hack.....a smooth, handsome, articulate hack, but a hack who has demonstrated no abiding interest in ensuring that the Constitution is not interpreted solely for the benefit of the "wealthy white male landowners" who wrote it in the first place.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 6, 2005 01:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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