Politics & Policy

What Does The Aba Know?

The missing pieces of the Harriet Miers paper trail.

Why would the famously detail-oriented Harriet Miers submit a questionnaire so incomplete that the Senate Judiciary Committee has asked her to try again? There is some evidence that she may have more of a paper trail than you’ve heard.

From 1992-2001, Miers served as one of 500 members of the American Bar Association’s policymaking body, its House of Delegates.

The ABA seemed to like what they saw of her ideas over the years, given she “was one of two candidates for the Number 2 [sic] position at the ABA, chair of the House of Delegates …”

The ABA has over 1,200 official positions. Conservatives have been consistently reminded of Miers’s efforts to change the ABA’s abortion position. But we have no clue about Miers’s efforts regarding other controversial ABA positions adopted during her tenure, such as:

Environmental Justice. Support actions by all levels of government and the private sector that implement environmental laws and policies that prevent a disproportionate share of environmental harm from falling on minorities and/or low-income individuals or communities. 8/93 [page 44].

Gun Control: Rights of Victims. Urge amendment of the Gun Control Act of 1968 to provide a private cause of action, with concurrent state and federal jurisdiction, for those persons sustaining injury or damage as a result of violation of the Act … 2/96 [page 34].

Language Interpreters. Recommends that all courts be provided with language interpreters, including sign language, who are qualified through mandatory certification program [sic] 8/97 [page 28].

School Prayer. Opposes adoption of a constitutional amendment or federal legislation that would allow for officially sanctioned prayer in public schools… 2/95 [page 21].

Perhaps Miers opposed the ABA’s anti-prayer, anti-English, and/or antigun policies. The Senate Judiciary Committee sought to find the truth by asking Question 10:

10. Bar Associations: … [I]f any such association, committee or conference of which you were or are a member issued any reports, memoranda or policy statements produced with your participation, please furnish the committee with four (4) copies of these materials, if they are available to you [emphasis added]. …

Miers’s response to Question 10 omits any discussion or documentation of her ABA work. In response to question 12, Miers states:

I have not maintained personal records for the vast majority of organizations with which I have been affiliated. Where I have been able to secure records responsive to this request, they are attached.

Miers has once again been asked about her ABA role again via Question 14(b): “lis[t] all reports, memoranda, or policy statements prepared, produced [sic] with your participation or produced under your guidance during the time in which you served in any public office, including … the American Bar Association …” [emphasis added].

Thankfully, the Senate Judiciary Committee need not rely on Miers’s questionnaire answers or her inadequate filing system to gain a complete understanding of her views during her service as an ABA polic maker.

The ABA’s website notes that “[t]he Association’s official records in the American Bar Center in Chicago, Illinois, are the primary source of authoritative information.”

Assuming she stays in the nomination game, one hopes the American Bar Association will swiftly aid the Senate Judiciary Committee’s deliberations by releasing all of her records and policy memos immediately. If the ABA doesn’t volunteer to do so voluntarily, the committee should require it to do so.

Jim Boulet Jr. is executive director of English First.


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