Slate's Jurisprudence: Harriet Miers Nomination
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
For analysis of the Harriet Miers nomination, we're going to Emily Bazelon. She writes on legal affairs for the online magazine Slate.
Emily, welcome back to the program. And Mr. Bush chose his old friend, Harriet Miers, to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court. How does Ms. Miers' background compare with that of Sandra Day O'Connor before she got to the Supreme Court?
EMILY BAZELON reporting:
Well, Harriet Miers' career has really been in Texas and in relation to President Bush as his personal lawyer, whereas Sandra Day O'Connor had a pretty developed record of public service. She had been appointed to the Arizona state Senate in 1969. She was then re-elected to that position and in 1973, which is early in terms of these sort of accomplishments from a woman, she was the first woman to serve as the majority leader of a state senate in any state. And she was then elected as a judge in Arizona before being appointed to the state appeals court by Governor Bruce Babbitt. So we're talking about a record of real sort of public service in the sense of standing up for election vs. someone who worked for a law firm, was the president of the Dallas Bar Association and the Texas State Bar Association, and then really, her career has been shaped by her relationship with President Bush.
CHADWICK: So in that record, how would she compare with, say, well, now Chief Justice John Roberts, who's just gone through this process?
BAZELON: Well, John Roberts came to that nomination at--with a very dazzling reputation as an appellate lawyer. He had worked for the Reagan administration in the Justice Department and as one of Ken Starr's deputies for the first George H.W. Bush, and then he was a very skilled appellate attorney, one of the top Supreme Court litigators, and then he was a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. So in terms of kind of national reputation and the intellectual skills that we usually think about with Supreme Court nominations, he on paper has them more than Harriet Miers does.
Of course, the tricky thing about this is that Miers could be a supreme legal mind. We just don't know that. It's very hard to know very much about her intellectual capabilities.
CHADWICK: How do people in the legal profession look at the appointment of someone who's never been a judge to a seat on the Supreme Court? The president noted today that there have been more than 30 of these appointments over the years, so it's not something that is that unusual.
BAZELON: No. I think a lot of people think it's a good thing for the court to include members who have a broad range of experience, and it was often credited to Sandra Day O'Connor that she had served in the Legislature. When Governor Earl Warren was appointed to the court, his experience in the executive was touted as a real qualification. But I think that intellectuals and scholars, they've already been saying that they are disappointed by the Miers nomination because coming in as the president's lawyer and as White House counsel is not the same thing as coming from a different branch of government, having really established your reputation elsewhere.
CHADWICK: Well, it's early for reaction. I mean, it's only been a few hours since the president put this name in play, but as you say, there's some disappointment, but maybe some approval as well from places.
BAZELON: There has been. Glenn Reynolds, who is the well-known blogger Instapundit, a well-traveled legal site, and who's also a law professor, said this morning that he was, quote, "underwhelmed" by the nomination. I think he was speaking for a lot of other academics as well.
On the other hand, we had glowing approval this morning from Jay Sekulow, who is at the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal group, and has been an important insider adviser in the nomination process and someone who's been pushing hard for a vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade. And he said this morning, quote, "President Bush showed exceptional judgment in naming Harriet Miers." And there's also been a strong statement of support from the Federalist Society. So we have mixed reaction on the right.
CHADWICK: Opinion and analysis from Emily Bazelon. She writes on legal affairs for the online magazine Slate, and she'll be posting more on Harriet Miers later today at Slate.com.
Emily, thank you.
BAZELON: Thanks very much, Alex.
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