Lack of information about Miers a key issue

Audrey Wagstaff

Ohio’s senators have praised Harriet Miers’ experience as White House Chief Council, but are waiting to find out more before deciding if they will support her as President Bush’s nominee for a justice seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

A U.S. Supreme Court expert said that the fact that little is known about her may work in favor of the Democrats.

Bush announced Miers as his nominee Monday to fill the chair of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has stepped down from the bench.

If Miers is selected, she will be the first Supreme Court Justice with no judicial experience since Richard Nixon’s nomination of William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell in 1971.

“I know nothing about her legal background and I am looking forward to finding out more information about her,” said Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) in a statement.

Miers, who now serves as White House Chief Council, and has also been Bush’s personal lawyer, has been criticized for her lack of experience. She was first hired by Bush as a “staff secretary” when he was Governor of Texas. At that time, she was running the Texas Lottery Commission.

Thomas Hensley, political science professor emeritus and an expert on the U.S. Supreme Court, said Bush is yet again helping further the career of an acquaintance.

“There’s obviously a personal loyalty there,” Hensley said. “He likes to promote his friends.”

Regardless of her political views, Hensley said replacing O’Connor with another woman is a smart move by Bush. “The fact that she is a women is a plus,” he said.

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) described her as a “trailblazer for women,” and both he and Voinovich said she has an impressive personality.

“She has the kind of real-world, practical experience that I believe is important for our justices to have,” DeWine said. “I have been impressed with my interactions with her while she has served as President Bush’s White House Counsel.”

Hensley said he was surprised at the nomination because she was not on the original list of nominees.

“I think this nomination indicates weakness on Bush’s part,” he said.

Hensley said Bush has his hands full with so many other issues that he may not want to start another quarrel with Democrats.

“It’s not likely to light too many fires with Democrats because we don’t know much about her,” Hensley said. “The search has only begun to determine who is Harriet Miers.”

And, with little known about Miers, Hensley said, “The liberals may be breathing a sigh of relief,” because no one is sure how she will lean.

Now that Roberts is seated, the Senate and House will begin hearings about Miers’ nomination. According to speculation, Bush hopes to have her sworn in by Thanksgiving.

Like Bush, Voinovich is eager to begin this process. “I hope her confirmation hearings will be conducted with the same speed and fairness as the hearings for now Chief Justice Roberts were conducted.”

Contact public affairs reporter Audrey Wagstaff at [email protected].