Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

Initial Thoughts on the Miers Nomination


1. Like lots of folks, I was disappointed that President Bush did not nominate someone who has a public record that clearly demonstrates a sound understanding of the proper role of judging. From a conversation with an informed source, it’s my impression that the White House carefully reviewed a broad range of candidates—including virtually every possible woman—and concluded that Harriet Miers was the best candidate, or at least the best female candidate, who would get confirmed. I suspect that the White House was far less ready to face a substantial risk of non-confirmation than many of us would have liked.

2. All of point 1 is behind us now. Harriet Miers is the nominee, and the relevant question going forward is whether to support her nomination, oppose it, or stand on the sidelines.

3. I spoke today with four individuals who know Harriet Miers very well and have worked very closely (in at least one case, extremely closely) with her. I know three of these individuals very well and deeply trust their judgment on matters of judicial philosophy and character. Although I do not know the fourth individual, that individual’s public record gives me ample reason to trust his judgment on matters of judicial philosophy. All four individuals are genuinely enthusiastic about Miers’s nomination and strongly believe that she will be an excellent judicial conservative (i.e., a proponent of originalism and judicial restraint). Indeed, one of them, who made clear that he was an ardent admirer of Chief Justice Roberts, said that he was even more comfortable with Miers than with Roberts.

Another person with whom I spoke shed some light on the fact that some who served in the White House appear to have less positive impressions of Miers. According to his account, Miers, in her role as staff secretary, often had very limited interactions with other staffers—making sure the paper flowed, for example, but not engaging in policy debates—that didn’t display the full range of her abilities.

4. The very encouraging assessment of these three individuals is bolstered by other evidence, such as Miers’s lead role in the effort to have the ABA revisit its pro-abortion stance, her sponsorship of a fundraiser for a pro-life organization, and her active role in her evangelical church. (To be clear: I am not looking for justices who will impose conservative policy preferences. I am merely taking comfort in the fact that a person who has conservative policy preferences will be unlikely, as a justice, to be bamboozled into reading the Left’s agenda into the Constitution.)

Bottom line: Setting aside my initial disappointment at the fact that certain individuals with clearer records were passed over, I see a lot of cause for hope that Miers will be a very strong justice.


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