Harriet Miers Nominated to Supreme Court

President Bush nominates White House counsel Harriet Miers to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Members of Congress are responding to President Bush's second Supreme Court nominee. Earlier this morning, the president named his White House counsel, Harriet Miers, to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and at this hour, she is on Capitol Hill making the rounds of the Senate. Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas has weighed in. He hailed the president's choice. He called Myers, quote, "a brilliant legal mind" and said her legal experience has prepared her to serve on the nation's highest court.

Senator JOHN CORNYN (Republican, Texas): Some have said that perhaps we don't know very much about her because she hasn't been a judge before, but the fact is more than 40 Supreme Court justices were nominated and confirmed to that position without prior judicial experience. But I do think that certainly she does have the professional experience that will prepare her for this position.

MONTAGNE: Democrats were more cautious. Charles Schumer is a senator from New York.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): We Democrats are going to look at this nominee with a complete and open mind. Having said that, we know less about this nominee than we knew about John Roberts in terms of judicial philosophy, in terms of legal background.

MONTAGNE: Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, speaking this morning about the nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Earlier today, I spoke with Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas about the president's nominee.

Senator KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (Republican, Texas): Harriet is a Texan. I think that her geographic diversity is one of the pluses here. I think we should have people from other parts of the country besides the Northeast and Washington, DC. I also think her integrity and her wisdom are very well known throughout the country because of her leadership in the American Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association. So I think she's a leader in legal circles and I think people will start getting to know what a wonderful human being she is as the process goes forward.

MONTAGNE: Well, those of us actually getting to know her, to look at her resume, she's been a corporate lawyer. She has clerked for a US district judge. She has not been a judge herself. Does it matter, first, that she hasn't been a judge and, secondly, that there's very little in the way of legal paper?

Sen. HUTCHISON: No, I think that it's good, frankly, to have some people who come from the private sector on the Supreme Court. It's another diversity on the court. She hasn't spent her life in academia or government. She's really been a practicing lawyer. I think she sees the legal issues from a practical standpoint. Now she is a constitutional lawyer as well, having clerked for Joe Estis(ph). She definitely has been a leader in breaking barriers for women in those legal fields. She has a record of community service and also leading in the state bar and the local bar. She was the first woman elected president of the Dallas Bar Association and the first woman elected president of the state bar of Texas. And in those roles, she was very active in promoting women to leadership positions in the legal community, but remember she was one of the first women hired in a major law firm in Texas because the major law firm didn't hire women until the early '70s.

MONTAGNE: Senator Hutchison, thanks very much.

Sen. HUTCHISON: You bet.

MONTAGNE: Kay Bailey Hutchison is a Republican senator from Texas.

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