Supreme Court nominee lacks proper background and know-how

Brain surgery requires a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the innermost workings of the brain to ensure a successful operation. Judicial review demands an equally expansive knowledge of constitutional law in order for one to adequately comply with the demands of the profession. Harriet Miers does not have the experience to be either a brain surgeon or an associate justice on the Supreme Court.

And yet, President George W. Bush selected Miers — the current White House counsel — to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Her nomination is an insult to the American people and cheapens the nation’s institution of justice. And, of course, it is also feeding extensive antagonism on Capitol Hill over the issue.

The politicians who oppose the Miers nomination, including many conservatives, regard her severe lack of qualifications and her considerable ties to both the current Bush administration and the president himself as reason enough for worry. “She needs more than murder boards. She needs a crash course in constitutional law,” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) told the New York Times.

If nominated, Miers would become the only current justice on the Supreme Court with no judicial experience. Moreover, she would be the first justice in over 30 years to come to the court without previous judicial experience. Her history with the Bush administration, the only experience the president advertises about his nominee, leaves many curious as to what role her bias will play in her career as an associate justice, if selected.

From January 2001 to June 2003, Miers worked as a staff secretary for the White House, later occupying the position of deputy chief of staff for policy until February 2005, again at the White House. Following that position, Miers acted as counsel to the president until her recent nomination.

Her history with Bush, however, began long before her work in the White House, when she acted as Bush’s personal lawyer.

In the 57-page survey for the Senate Judiciary Committee, when asked to “identify the categories of litigation … that [were] likely to present potential conflicts of interest during [her] initial service,” and to explain how she would handle such conflicts, Miers’ response was worrisome and inadequate. She wholly failed to identify the areas where conflict might arise and simply circumvented the question by patriotically proclaiming that she “would resolve any potential conflict of interest by abiding by both the spirit and the letter of the law.”

Patriotism aside, however, previous statements — or rather lack thereof — throw into doubt her ability to abide by the “spirit and the letter of the law,” as she so vapidly stated. When asked by the press if she would recuse herself from cases concerning issues where she might exhibit bias due to her history with the Bush administration, Miers declined to answer.

Until the administration resolves the farce that is the Miers nomination, the White House will continue to acquire enemies by making a mockery of the judicial system; first by Bush with his choice of nominee, and then by Miers’ insufficient and almost laughable response to the Senate survey. The nonchalant and distasteful manner in which she treated the American system of justice proves that she is unqualified for such a high position of authority.

As in the survey, the Senate asked Miers to “indicate the percentages” of her appearances in federal courts, state courts and other courts. To this, the mathematics major from Southern Methodist University replied: “While it is difficult to approximate these percentages, I had cases in both the federal and state courts. My work was not trial intensive due to its nature, but I tried cases and argued appeals in both federal and state courts.” Of all the nominees to complete a survey of this nature, a mathematics major should have the fewest problems estimating the percentages requested by the Senate.

Some opponents raise other questions about her ability to separate church and state as a justice and, while these doubts are far less substantial than her lack of qualifications, they raise a valid concern only because her religious affiliation acts as the crux of Bush’s reasoning for her nomination.

“People ask me why I picked Harriet Miers,” Bush said to reporters regarding the nomination. “They want to know Harriet Miers’ background. … And part of Harriet Miers’ life is her religion.”

Miers’ religious beliefs should be separate from any of the reasoning behind Bush’s selection; yet they are the very grounds he emphasizes. Considering the vast assortment of choices Bush had in selecting a nominee for the Supreme Court, his decision was both careless and a seeming case of cronyism.

For example, Janice R. Brown provides a strikingly extensive background in judicial law, having served nine years as a California Supreme Court judge and now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Edith Brown Clement and Emilio Garza, both judges for the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, also demonstrate a greater background in judicial law than Miers. Yet the president made a poor choice, as though there was some penury of selections.

With an abundance of votes already against her, that Miers will take a seat in the nation’s highest court seems — thankfully — highly unlikely. Nonetheless, the upset grows steadily. Outcries against the president will surely come to a head at the Senate confirmation hearings beginning Nov. 7 and will do more than simply fault the president for his blatant abuse of power and his attempt to further cronyism in an already troubled administration.