"THE NEXT JUSTICE"
Finally, a Supreme Court nominee who understands real people."
BY JOHN CORNYN
Wednesday, October 5, 2005
The Wall Street Journal
"Although the ink is still drying on her nomination, the president's
selection Monday of Harriet Miers to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
has already been met with praise from senators on both sides of the
aisle. As one would expect, her nomination has also been met with
questions by those who do not yet know her. But those of us who do know
and have worked with Ms. Miers think very highly of her, and we believe
she will make a valuable contribution to the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, some have criticized the president because he did not
select an Ivy-League-credentialed federal appeals court judge for the
open seat. I think this criticism is misplaced. For one thing, there is
no evidence that service on the federal court of appeals is a
prerequisite for distinguished service on the Supreme Court: 41 of the
109 justices who have served on the Supreme Court had no judicial
experience at all when they were nominated. These include several
luminaries from the school of judicial restraint, including the late
Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Furthermore, Harriet Miers's background as a legal practitioner is an
asset, not a detriment. She has spent her career representing real
people in courtrooms across America. This is precisely the type of
experience that the Supreme Court needs. The court is full of justices
who served as academics and court of appeals judges before they were
nominated to the bench. What the court is missing is someone who
understands the consequences of its decisions on the American people.
This experience gap is a real one. With the exception of the newly
confirmed chief justice, John Roberts, no justice on the court has been
an advocate in a court of law in the past 25 years, and Chief Justice
Roberts was involved only at the appellate level. ******
Harriet Miers, by contrast, has a long and successful career as a lawyer
representing corporate and individual clients in a variety of state and
federal courts. I am confident that this background provides her with an
understanding of the burdens of modern litigation, a recognition of the
problems with frivolous lawsuits and an appreciation for tort reform.
Others have criticized the president because Ms. Miers is a close
confidante, implying that she would not be qualified but for their
relationship. I could not disagree more. Of course, the president is
going to be inclined to nominate someone he knows, likes and has
confidence in. He is not going to nominate someone he does not know or
someone he does not like. So long as she is otherwise qualified to the
Supreme Court, Ms. Miers's long and valuable service to the president
should count in her favor, not against her.
And, moreover, there is little question that she is up to the job. She
has been a true trailblazer for women in the law. She was the first
woman hired by her law firm--one of the most prominent in Texas. She was
the first woman to serve as president of her law firm. She was the first
woman to serve as president of the Dallas Bar Association. She was the
first woman to serve as president of the Texas Bar Association. And her
accomplishments do not end at the Lone Star border.
For the past five years, she has worked at the highest levels in the
White House, including serving as the president's closest legal adviser.
Few lawyers in America have a more impressive resume. And none have more
of the president's confidence.
It is true that she was not educated at East Coast universities and has
not spent her entire career inside the Beltway. This, again, is a plus
in my book, not a minus. Anyone who has followed the Supreme Court in
recent years knows that what the institution needs most is a dose of
life beyond Washington. Last year, the court permitted a public display
of the Ten Commandments in Texas, but not in Kentucky. It took nine
justices on the court 10 different opinions to explain why this was so.
The court is dangerously out of touch with America. Ms. Miers will help
bring it back down to earth.
Ultimately, I think some people are uneasy about Harriet Miers because
they are unfamiliar with her.
To some extent, this is understandable. She has worked outside the
limelight her entire career, always serving others. But it is important
to take a deep breath and not rush to judgment. As the confirmation
process unfolds, Americans will learn a great deal more about Ms. Miers,
and they will like what they see.
I have been fortunate enough to know Harriet for much of her career. I
know that she believes, as I do, that judges should not legislate from
the bench. I know that she believes, as I do, that judges are not some
sort of elite anointed to impose their preferences on the rest of us. I
know that she understands that unelected judges who serve in a democracy
have a limited role--to apply the law as it was written by the people's
representatives. She aptly described her judicial philosophy on Monday
when she said, "It is the responsibility of every generation to be true
to the founders' vision of the proper role of the courts and our
society." The courts, she continued, have "obligations to strictly apply
the laws and the Constitution."
I am confident that when the American people get to know Ms. Miers as I
have, they will be as supportive as I am of her nomination."
"Mr. Cornyn is a Republican senator from Texas and a member of the
Senate Judiciary Committee. He served previously as attorney general of
Texas, as well as a justice on the state Supreme Court."
Lux et Veritas et Libertas
Vires et Honor