Tuesday :: Oct 4, 2005

Who is Harriet Miers?

by eriposte

[This page was last updated on October 7, 2005]

Given the criticality of this nomination and how it may determine the fate of Americans over the next 2-3 decades, I decided to create this page to consolidate key facts about Ms. Miers (her White House released biography is here). (As for what Senate Democrats should be doing, I recommend people read Markos' post, Bill's post and Steve's posts).

Miers' known history is catalogued here in several sections. I will update this page periodically.
(NOTE to bloggers and readers who may have additional information on Miers that is not contained here: please post them in the comments.)


1. Politics
2. Cronyism
3. Legal Experience and Judiciary
4. Executive Power, National Security and Civil Liberties
5. Corporatism and Economic Issues
6. Socio-Cultural Issues
7. Law and Order and Civil Rights
8. Environmental Issues
9. Religion/Church-State
10. Women's Issues and Other Topics


1. Politics

  • She contributed to Bush and to the Bush-Cheney recount fund that helped Bush get selected to the White House over Gore in 2000 [via Newsweek]. About 62% of her political giving is associated with efforts to advance Bush's political career [via USA Today].
  • She has made campaign contributions to Democrats (Al Gore, Lloyd Bentsen, DNC) back in 1988, but has given much more to Republicans - and exclusively so after 1994 [via Americablog, Newsweek and Slingshot].
  • As hard as it to believe, one conservative claims that her political contributions to Democrats in the late 1980s were requested by a Democratic law firm colleague - a request that she allegedly acceeded to (via WorldMagBlog). RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie claimed she was a "conservative Democrat" in the early 1980s before she became Republican [via Political Animal].
  • "Reports on Miers donations to Gore forget Gore chair became Republican Texas governor [Rick Perry]" - Perry was a Democrat until 1989 [via Raw Story].
  • She also contributed to "Nebraskan Donald Stenberg, of Stenberg v. Carhart fame, the leading national campaigner against late-term abortion" [via Slingshot].
  • There is also a story that she turned Republican after becoming a "born-again" Christian in the early 1980s, but this is contradicted by the fact that she donated to Democrats like Gore in the late 1980s [via Americablog].

2. Cronyism

  • In fact, Miers has proven herself to be a GOP hack and both a personal and political crony of President George Bush. She was "a top-level regular in the “Strategery Group,” where Bush’s top political advisers contemplated how to use the levers of government to advance the Republican Party. As staff secretary, Miers had final say over every paper that crossed the President’s desk" [via Slingshot, Think Progress, Progress Report and Alliance For Justice].
  • President Bush's former speechwriter David Frum has claimed that "She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met." [via Brad DeLong]
  • She has "represented the Administration's policies in the most favorable light, including economic policy, No Child Left Behind, and drilling in ANWR" [via ACS Blog]. Also, her belief that the Bush budget is "a restoration of fiscal discipline" makes it apparent that she is not exactly unbiased when it comes to this administration and its policies [via Carpetbagger Report].
  • She is a staunch Bush loyalist and Bush worshipper (more here) who was also self-investigated Bush's TX-ANG AWOL problem [via Georgia10 at Dailykos, Political Animal and Newsweek]. It is not entirely clear what role she played in the Ben Barnes payoff and the Texas Lottery scandal, and questions have been raised about Miers' possible role in what has been alleged to be a payoff/coverup to hide one of Bush's lies about his national guard record. Additionally, some Texas officials have said that the "lottery also became increasingly politicized during her reign" [via Loaded Mouth, Attytood, Booman Tribune, Jensequitir at Dailykos, Los Angeles Times and Media Matters]. Her research on Bush's past allowed Alberto Gonzales to get a jury duty waiver that allowed Bush to keep secret his 1976 arrest for drunken driving [via Newsweek]. More here [via Buzzflash].

3. Legal Experience and Judiciary

  • She has never been a judge and has no experience arguing cases before the Supreme Court. However, she would join a long line of past SCOTUS judges who did not have prior judicial experience [via Scotusblog, FindLaw and Talk Left].
  • Her legal experience appears to be thin [via Americablog]. Westlaw records show that she has only argued 4 cases in Texas state courts in 30 years [via Is That Legal]. Commenter Kenneth points out that it is quite possible that she argued many more cases which were not reported online. She seems to have argued only 3 cases in 30 years at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (and lost all three) [via Is That Legal].
  • A separate report says that an "online search shows she was listed as counsel in at least 34 cases and has written at least 3 briefs, but more research is needed in this area" [via Save Our Courts].
  • The law firm where she was a Managing Partner had to settle or pay damages (in the millions) for defrauding investors [via David Sirota, Huff Post]. More here and here [via Blue Mass Group and Burnt Orange Report]. The head of litigation at Miers' former law firm denies she had any role in the fraud [via USA Today].
  • Back in 1968 she authored a Law Review note where she seemed to effectively acknowledge that courts can legislate from the bench [via Is That Legal].
  • She seems to be detail-oriented when she wants to be [via Legal Times].
  • One of her former Conservative colleagues cautions fellow Conservatives that "Harriet could have become a conservative in Washington, but unless she did, she doesn’t have any particular judicial philosophy… I never heard her take a position on anything… We’ll have another Sandra Day O’Connor" [via Free Republic] .

4. Executive Power, National Security and Civil Liberties

  • She was staff secretary and briefed Bush at his ranch on August 6, 2001 - which was when Bush decided to stay asleep at the wheel after reading the PDB warning that Osama bin Laden was determined to attack the U.S. [via Eschaton]
  • She likely had some degree of involvement with the Bush White House response to the Valerie Plame identity leak probe [via Georgia10 at Dailykos].
  • She provided significant guidance on the issues of Presidential powers during wars, torture, etc. [via Georgia10 at Dailykos].
  • It is clear that one of the principal reasons for her cronyist nomination is to prevent judicial oversight over Bush's Executive powers in the unending "War on Terror" [via Slingshot, Mahablog and The Hill]. But also scroll down to section 7 for more.
  • She does not seem to believe that filibusters are constitutional since it is her contention that the President's nominees deserve an up-or-down vote [via Washington Post] .
  • She seems to have pushed for retaining American Bar Association (ABA) review of potential judicial nominees in the Bush White House, despite opposition from Alberto Gonzales [via David Corn in The Nation].

5. Corporatism and Economic Issues

  • Her former law firm was anti-union and fought cases against unions [via Confined Space].
  • She worked closely with Microsoft to allow Microsoft to push through defective software without legal ramifications [via Sligshot].
  • She has partly been picked because she has a well-known corporation-friendly ideology [via Slingshot and Salon.com].
  • She is reportedly a "fierce advocate" of "tort reform" (code word for the ""movement to limit lawsuits and large liability judgments, especially against corporations") [via the Los Angeles Times].

6. Socio-Cultural Issues

  • On at least one instance she took a position at the Dallas City Council (before 1991) that favored doing away with the existing "at-large" election process to a more representative process that would increase the likelihood of minority representation. One of her former Council colleagues says she's a "Republican conservative who's fair" [via NY Times]. However, she opposed a Texas Bar Association proposal that would guarantee "the election of a racial or ethnic minority bar president every sixth year" [via Save Our Courts].
  • More substantively, she "testified in a 1990 voting-rights lawsuit that the Dallas City Council had too few black and Hispanic members and that increasing minority representation should be a goal of any change in the city's political structure." She also said that "...she believed that the city should divest itself of its South African financial holdings and work to boost economic development in poor and minority areas. She also said she "wouldn't belong to the Federalist Society" or other "politically charged" groups because they "seem to color your view one way or another for people who are examining you."..." Her view seemed to be that race should be a consideration in these matters but not the only one [via Accumbens at Dailykos and Philly Inquirer].
  • When she was head of the Dallas Bar Association she "created a dinner to raise money for minority scholarships," an event that has "raised $1 million over 20 years" [via Bloomberg].
  • At one time, she seems to have expressed some interest in addressing a gay group and taking positions in support of gay rights [via Americablog]. However, she did not support a Bill to outlaw the Texas law banning sodomy (which was later repealed by the Supreme Court) [via Washington Blade]. She did appoint an "openly gay lawyer to an influential city board" [via the Washington Post].
  • She is quite clearly personally anti-abortion now and has contributed $150 to an anti-abortion group making her a "bronze" patron of the group [via Americablog, Washington Blade, Media Matters, ACS Blog and Bloomberg]. Interestingly, even though she fought intensely against the American Bar Association (ABA) proposal to endorse the legality of abortion, she did not resign in protest from the ABA along with 3850 other ABA members who did. Indeed, she was of the view that the ABA should take a neutral position on the abortion question [via Tapped]. However, click here for a different take on the same issue [via Stone Court].
  • To compound matters, former Texas State Bar President Darrell Jordan said: "I know Harriet as well as anyone could, and I'd have a hard time telling you what her beliefs are on (abortion)" [via ACS Blog]. He also said that: "She is a very disciplined thinker...I think she would take the view that only in the rarest of circumstances would she do something to reverse that kind of precedent" [via Los Angeles Times]. Her 1989 Dallas City Council campaign manager Lorlee Bartos said that in her "younger years" Miers was in favor of abortion but that her views "shifted" in later years towards an anti-abortion stance [via NY Times]. A long-time friend Jerry Clements said "Having known her as well as I do, I've had no indication that she has ever stated she believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned" [via Americablog]. Also see here [via Talk Left].
  • One of her long time acquaintances (and "boyfriend") who knows her well, Justice Hecht, had this to say about her position on abortion: "...He never asked Ms. Miers how she would vote on the issue of abortion if it came before the Supreme Court, he said. "She probably wouldn't answer, she wouldn't view it as appropriate." "Yes, she goes to a pro-life church," Justice Hecht said, adding, "I know Harriet is, too." The two attended "two or three" anti-abortion fund-raising dinners in the early 1990's, he said, but added that she had not otherwise been active in the anti-abortion movement. "You can be just as pro-life as the day is long and can decide the Constitution requires Roe" to be upheld, he said..." [via NY Times]. On the other hand, Hecht (who is the most conservative judge in the already highly conservative Texas Supreme Court) is part of the Extreme Far Right fringe element in the U.S. as manifested by the criticism that he received from strong conservatives like Alberto Gonzales, among others, and the fact that Miers and he are "involved" (or even very close) does raise questions about her personal judgment and moderation [via Los Angeles Times and Stone Court].
  • The Bush administration's supporters' (and key detractors') talking points on Miers and abortion eerily resemble the talking points circulating about Sandra Day O'Connor at the time of her nomination to the SCOTUS by then-President Ronald Reagan [via Americablog and Eschaton]. (Readers may remember that O'Connor was touted as being staunchly anti-abortion but after she became a SCOTUS judge she provided the decisive fifth vote to uphold Roe v. Wade in 1992).

7. Law and Order and Civil Rights

  • She has written that to reduce crime one needs to also address its root causes: "...the social issues that foster criminal behavior, such as: lack of self-esteem or hope in some segments of our society, poverty, lack of health care (particularly mental health care), lack of education, and family dysfunction..." [via TNR's &c].
  • She "established three centers in Dallas where the poor could receive low-cost legal advice" [via Bloomberg].
  • A report in the ABA Journal suggests that back in 1993 Miers took the view that Texas' horrendous death penalty system needed reform and defendants should be provided with better quality lawyers.
  • In one of her writings, she actually claimed that we should not get rid of our fundamental freedoms and liberties just because there are vile criminals who exploit those very freedoms and liberties to commit terrible crimes. This is of course before she became a Bush proxy.
  • She has worked with a "non-denominational Christian organization established to assist ex-offenders and their families become productive members of society by meeting both their spiritual and physical needs" [via Americablog]. More on this here [via Sentencing Law and Policy].
  • She has encouraged Bar Association members to do pro bono work [via Americablog]. She also apparently "appealed to the competitive nature of Dallas' lawyers by making a contest out of who could rack up the most pro bono hours" [via USA Today].
  • There was one report suggesting she may not be opposed to an International Criminal Court (ICC) [via Americablog] but this is almost certainly inaccurate since the document in question did not reflect (any) her recommended policy positions [via RedState].
  • She received "a civil rights award from the Anti-Defamation League in 1996 and chaired the Dallas Bar's Committee for the Provision of Civil Legal Services to the Poor" [via Is That Legal].
  • She "helped a young Nigerian woman avoid deportation" in what was characterized as a "hard case" (possibly an illegal immigrant?) [via USA Today].
  • She has stated that her favorite Supreme Court justice is Warren Burger [via Washington Post].

8. Environmental Issues

  • Miers environmental views prior to her association with George Bush are not publicly known yet (and I would appreciate information from anyone who knows more on this). However, it is quite clear that during her years in the Bush White House, she served as an uncritical mouthpiece for Bush's Orwellian attempts to gut the environment [via Environment News Service].

9. Religion/Church-State

  • There are reports that she is a "devout Christian". She reportedly became a "born-again evangelical Protestant" (by the end of the 1970s?) and even taught classes for a Sunday youth group in her church. One of the parents whose children she taught said "she never used the church to further her political career" [via NY Times].
  • Miers had long been a regular member of an ultraconservative church in Dallas (Valley View), but recently the church changed its pastor to Barry McCarty who has propagated extreme fundamentalist views. It turns out that Miers and about 200 others therefore broke away from the church because of serious differences with how it was being led by McCarty [via Max Blumenthal at Huffington Post and AP].

10. Women's Issues and Other Topics

  • In the late 1990s, when she was an Advisory Board member at Southern Methodist University, Miers pushed for "the creation of an endowed lecture series in women's studies named for Louise B. Raggio, one of the first women to rise to prominence in the Texas legal community...[she] not only advocated for the lecture series, but also gave money and solicited donations to help get it off the ground. A feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, delivered the series's first lecture, in 1998..." [via Maineac at Dailykos and the Chronicle of Higher Education]
  • Based on what little is known about her views on the media and the press, she does seem to have favored independent journalism. Among other things, she defended the ABA Journal (when she was on the Board of Editors for 9 years) against criticism when they published controversial articles, including one in which an article was critical of the George H. W. Bush government's case against a Colombian cocaine trafficker, alleging a Government conspiracy [via Editor and Publisher].
  • In an ABA panel discussion on Supreme Court nominations" Miers was one of the panelists who was asked whether, if she were to be President, it would be appropriate for her to ask a "potential [judicial] nominee about his or her views on abortion". Miers replied that it would not be appropriate, saying "Nominees are clearly prohibited from making such a commitment and presidents are prohibited from asking for it" and that [people who think such inquiries are proper display] "a misunderstanding of the separation of powers by proposing that judicial nominees should mirror a president's views". When asked whether race or sex should be a factor in the nominee selection, she said yes [via Talk Left and American Street].
  • At the same time she took exception to a strongly worded rebuke of the Texas Supreme Court by fellow Bar members on an unusual sexual "harassment" (for lack of a better word) case involving a 19-year old woman.
  • Among her many firsts, she was also the first woman on her legal firm's until-then-all-male softball team [via Americablog].
  • She has modest assets relative to her long history as a highly connected Republican and corporate lawyer. Apparently, this is because she used much of her savings to "provide home care for her ailing nonagenarian mother who recently moved into a nursing home." [via Walter Shapiro at The Huffington Post]. This is to be lauded. (Perhaps, it also suggests that she is closer to being a real Conservative, one who believes it is a real moral value to not financially benefit through cronyism.)
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