Law Professor: Miers Has Unusual Background for Nominee
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
President Bush today named his White House counsel, Harriet Miers, to fill the seat vacated by the retiring Judge Sandra Day O'Connor. Right now we have Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, on the line.
Good morning, Mr. Gerhardt.
Professor MICHAEL GERHARDT (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill): Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Is this a surprising choice?
Prof. GERHARDT: I think it's a surprising choice in that she has got a different kind of background than the nominees we've seen over the last couple of decades. Over the last couple decades the nominees we've seen have all come from lower-court judgeships. Obviously she comes directly from a political post. And I would say the other surprise is she does not have a career, in a sense, that one could look at and necessarily say it qualifies her for the Supreme Court. With John Roberts you could do that. Harriet Miers has had a different kind of career and I think it'll be looked at pretty closely by the Senate.
MONTAGNE: Well, her career includes time spent at a very high level in corporate law, but does not include being a judge, although she clerked for a judge at one point. Does that matter?
Prof. GERHARDT: No. I think oftentimes judicial nominees to the Supreme Court who've not been a judge have obviously not just had great credentials but turned out to be very distinguished justices on the Supreme Court. But in Harriet Miers' case, there has to be something in her background that gives this president the confidence that he believes she's in the mold of Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas. Those are the people he said he would use as a guide in making Supreme Court appointments. So the question will be from the senators, `OK, what is it that kind of distinguishes you in terms of dealing with the kinds of issues that you're gonna deal with on the Supreme Court?'
MONTAGNE: Well, have you any thoughts about how the confirmation hearings might unfold?
Prof. GERHARDT: I think Republicans might be willing to trust the president, but I think only so far, and Democrats, I suspect, are not gonna be willing to trust the president on this one, and they're gonna want to probe much more deeply than they did with John Roberts about this nominee's judicial philosophy. In fact, here it's ironic. The president's first nomination might actually set a very high standard. The big question everybody's gonna want to know is why Harriet Miers. With John Roberts, he would have been on almost every Republican presidents' list of a possible judicial appointment. With Harriet Miers, she probably would have been on no other Republican president's list.
MONTAGNE: Michael Gerhardt, thanks very much.
Michael Gerhardt is a law professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
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