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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Miers in court: Very good, cool, deliberate, poised, effective

If you want to know who's an effective courtroom lawyer and who's just a preening, posturing candy-assed (excuse my bluntness) litigator, one very good way to find out is to ask an experienced trial judge.

Blawger Evan Schaeffer quotes at length from a December 1996 Texas Lawyer profile on SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers, which includes this bit from the Hon. Merrill L. Hartman, presiding judge of the 192nd District Court of Dallas County, Texas:

"I've had her in court. [She's] very good, very cool, very deliberate, very poised, never gets rattled, very centered and has a very matter-of-fact way of communicating to a jury that's very effective," says 192nd District Judge Merrill L. Hartman.

As I mentioned in a comment on Evan's blog, I've appeared before Judge Hartman. He's among Dallas County's most experienced and respected trial judges, a no-nonsense jurist who's quick on the uptake, extremely efficient and professional, and unlikely to gladly suffer fools. I don't believe he'd be inclined to engage in grade inflation, and words like these from a trial judge like him constitute high, rare, and well-informed praise.

By all means, read the whole thing if you want to get a sense of what her peers in Texas were saying about Harriet Miers long before she'd ever become Counsel to the Governor of Texas or the President of the United States.

Here's another bit of information, about which you'll just have to take my word for it: I'm disinclined to quote from emails from readers unless the writer has expressly authorized me to do so, and I'm going to stick with that policy rather than infer their implied consent and start cutting and pasting onto my blog. But as of this moment, I've got 312 non-spam, still-unread emails in my inbox, all received since Monday morning, and almost all of which have to do with my posts about Ms. Miers. I've managed to at least skim through another three hundred or more. Most of them are from readers with opinions but no personal knowledge, and I'm grateful for those of course. But of the ones I've managed to read so far, I've gotten unsolicited emails from a former professor of hers; a fellow editor on the Southwestern Law Journal; a former colleague in a high leadership position of the State Bar of Texas; several lawyers who've had cases with and against her; and three different lawyers (including a judge) who've practiced with her and/or who describe her as a role model, pioneer, and a personal inspiration. Percentage thanking me for publishing factual and detailed information about Ms. Miers' record: 100 percent. Percentage expressing any doubts about her fitness for the Court based on personal knowledge and dealings with her: Zero.

The notion that Harriet Miers' only qualification, or even her main qualification, is her friendship with Dubya is outrageous.

(Hat-tip to Orin Kerr on the Volokh Conspiracy.)

Posted by Beldar at 01:18 AM in Law (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Miers in court: Very good, cool, deliberate, poised, effective and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» On Miers from Those Who Would Know from Musing Minds

Tracked on Oct 6, 2005 7:12:58 AM

» More Miers? I must, I must! from The Anchoress

Tracked on Oct 6, 2005 8:51:01 AM

» Warming up on Meirs from janewoodworth's JournURL weblog

Tracked on Oct 6, 2005 12:40:46 PM


(1) Rob made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 2:57:14 AM | Permalink

Her friendship with W was not her only qualification. As "staff secretary" getting his coffee was also a factor

Now to finally shutup the elitists particularly the most annoying of all this week Ann Coulter along with Laurie "its like picking the best surgeon" Ingraham, lets all concede that theoretical physicists with the top IQ's of any profession on the planet (avg 170 plus) - would in reality (with a small bit of legal training) - be the only truely qualified people to BEST divine the true original intent of The Constitution

They could work pro-bono 10 hrs a week in-between brainstorming about the origins of the universe

Of course to justify their decisions they could also just invent some new "rational basis" test, criteria or some new hula hoops to jump through to justify their latest decisions

Either way, we would have THE BEST

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 3:09:28 AM | Permalink

Re the "staff secretary" position, I'm reminded of one of my favorite bits of sexual banter between William Shatner's and Candace Bergin's characters on Boston Legal, which went something like:

[Shatner's character, Denny Crane]: How could you have dumped me for a secretary?

[Candace Bergin's character]: Denny! He was the Secretary of Defense!

[Shatner]: But still ....

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 4:45:48 AM | Permalink

Couldn't figure out how to work it into this post, but I also received an unsolicited email from the dean of a very well regarded law school (that I shan't name, but you'd recognize it and so would Prof. Barnett), who apparently was particularly tickled by my description of Prof. Barnett's position as "snotty." That in turn cracked me up for about fifteen minutes, and it reminds me to remind myself, and you gentle readers, that not every law professor is guilty of elitism, either knowing or unknowing. And many have a terrific sense of humor, as I know Prof. Barnett does as well (at least on other matters).

(4) ed made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 9:09:36 AM | Permalink


So Beldar.

You're going to GUARANTEE me that Miers won't shift leftward?

How about this. If she does turn leftward, at any point during her entire Supreme Court career, you retire from blogging permanently.

Because, quite frankly, I've heard this song-and-dance before by other people. Who were ultimately wrong and who never paid for their terrible advice.

How about it? Willing to put your blogging career where your mouth is?

(5) Eh Nonymous made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 9:47:57 AM | Permalink

Rob: as a former physicist and now lawyer, I can confirm that your point is a fraud.

Theoretical physicists may be very nice people; you might even enjoy having a beer with them.

They are not usually the same kind of person who succeeds in politics, say on the School Board level, let alone something really big, like the MD House of Delegates.

To be a successful U.S. Senator, for example, you have to have certain skills which, it is possible, a theoretical physicist may have.

But expertise in the origins of the Universe- meaning cosmogenesis, meaning theoretical astrophysics - has nothing to do with BEST divining original intent. Reading the mind of God is not like reading the mind of dead white males. Nor should there be any parallels.

My guess: Roberts is a better judge than any physicist at Harvard, MIT, or Caltech would be. Does that really surprise you?

Why am I down on physicists? Because, as I said, I am one. And I think lawyers, with more exposure to more fields, can be better synthesizing polymaths than your average narrow genius. And _that's_ who we want at the wheel; people of brilliance who haven't lost touch with reality.

(6) J.J. made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 11:03:18 AM | Permalink


Thank You from the non-lawyer, average voters out here in the Heartland. This is the type of info I want. So many of the people against the nomination are turning us off because their arguments are more on the petty side than anything else. No real info or argument. I've dropped several other links and added yours to my bookmarks.

There are so many things irritating me about those opposing her that it's hard to mention just one (not that they may not have a point, but they are not explaining it - more throwing tantrums than anything else). It is showing how much even conservative media\commentators are out of touch with the Heartland. Finally, it seems to me, that the Souters et all HAD A PAPER TRAIL and where did that get us? The "we need a paper trail crowd" seems to be lobbying for just the thing that led us astray in the past.

(7) Jane Woodworth made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 12:48:08 PM | Permalink


I wanted to thank you for becoming the "go to" guy on Miers. Like others, I like anectdotal evidence particularly if it comes from a source I trust. As a result of your posts on Miers I've taken her out of the "not quite sure category" and will put her in the "I support" category.

(8) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 3:51:13 PM | Permalink

Dartmouth economist Andrew Samwick (blogging as Vox Baby) knows her from White House meetings, and says: 'I would be shocked to see a Justice Miers anywhere but in the Scalia-Thomas wing of the Court.'

That's based on her lengthy tenure with Bush.

(9) Drugstore Cowgirl made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 4:09:46 PM | Permalink

I think it's time someone took a couple of pacifiers out of the freezer and stuck them in Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin's mouthes. They seem to be teething or something. And pretty much the entire NRO bunch as well.

(10) Waldot made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 4:10:52 PM | Permalink

"infer their implied consent"? Beautiful. I love it when people use the language with precision.

(11) Lesley made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 6:27:35 PM | Permalink

Dear Bill,

Fine commentary. I value your judgment and insight.

Many pundits are abuzz with the notion of elitism (top law schools, legal experience, etc) with regard to the Miers nomination. I would venture something further. In the rarified atmospherics of this discussion, we non-lawyers are lead to the inescapable conclusion that the Constitution we studied in school and the laws under which we live are accessible and understandable only to a legal elite which rules (ex cathedra) over the rest of us. If the legal system of this nation is a deliberately created, arcane complexity beyond the grasp of its ordinary citizenry and can only be interpreted by Constitutional Heideggers, then what does it truly say about the nature of our democracy and the laws under which we live? This is disturbing to me.

I understand a civilized society needs rights and rules under which to operate. I also understand that the Supreme Court should be constituted of lawyers and very smart lawyers at that. However, to me there is a troubling subtext being unwittingly (?) promulgated by some pundits as they loftily argue over the non-legal heads of the rest of us: America is, in reality, a nation entirely governed and controlled by a legal elite.

Heck, now that I think about it, even I have my lawyer's number on speed-dial.

I apologize if this seems an inarticulate rambling. Bill, I hope you're taking very good care of that big heart of yours.

(12) Rob made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 6:37:11 PM | Permalink

WHEN THE RIGHT WING ELITE SNOBS from the east coast team up with the MAJOR LIB MEDIA- it can be pretty sad

Laura Ingraham a few moments ago on her radio show said it wasn't about elitism, that the school one went to is irrelevant, and no one on her side on this issue is making that issue

However consider that Kate O'Berne from National Review was just on CBS News on the 6:30 est broadcast complaining that were many other woman with far superior "academic" credentials than Ms Miers

CBS News went on to have a (non-helpful) comment from a white house spokesman saying Miers "didn't get coffee" in her job

Then in true CBS fashion, obviously to confuse the public further and hope the public thinks this would be like Nixon appointing Rosemary Woods to Supreme Court Justice

Consider this near vertabim quote from a the CBS field correspondnent tonight

"Ms Miers, a friend of the President, rose from Staff Secretary to White House counsel"

ie she was doing typing and worked her way into being a lawyer

CBS obviously trying to confuse people further

(13) Jonathan Sadow made the following comment | Oct 6, 2005 6:43:27 PM | Permalink

ed wrote

How about this. If she does turn leftward, at any point during her entire Supreme Court career, you retire from blogging permanently.

Change a few words, and this sounds like something we'd hear on one of those TV wrestling programs in reference to a "grudge match"....

Far be it for me to speak for Beldar, but I do think we're looking for a higher level of discourse here (and for the issue of the Miers nomination in general).

(14) wayne made the following comment | Oct 7, 2005 10:56:16 AM | Permalink

This elitism canard is the most disingenuous distraction from a losing debate I've ever seen. Pricilla Owens went to Baylor Law School, do you think the pundits would really be objecting to her nomination?

(15) eddie made the following comment | Oct 7, 2005 4:27:01 PM | Permalink

So I do hope everyone here realizes that there are two separate discussions going on simultaneously and in a very basic way neither address the qualifications issue.

A. What are the criteria for being a supreme court justice? It seems from the author of this blog simply getting good reviews as a lawyer is enough, as long as the President thinks the person is qualified. There is no need for any experience with appellate practice or even extensive court room practice.

B. But the real irksome "qualification" issue for the "true believers" is summed up by ed's demand: insurance that this Miers will be a Scalia-Thomas clone. So as long as she decides cases with the results that please this special interest base (let's be honest there is no ground swell for "originalism" in this country; only various splintered pockets of specific issue groups wanting a reverse activism to validate their own positions, whether or not such positions are actually in the constitution or simply found as new and better "penumbra" or footnotes to ancillary documents written by various founders), then she is qualified, regardless of any judicial philosophy, integrity or anything else.

This is the end of government and the end of reason: Let's put those in power who think that government is the problem and let's put judges in the courts who won't have any problem adding the bible to the list of source material to be used to divine the meaning of laws passed by fallible humans.

And finally, one poster has submitted, perhaps unwittingly, that the only judicial philosophy acceptable by any new jurists is one that "figures out the intent of a bunch of dead white guys." Interesting how not one of those dead white guys ever suggested that such "originalism" was the proper way for the court to determine its decisions. Because the only mantra I here today is my President right or wrong. And if those dead white guys had any thought that they would unanimously reject it would be such a blind belief in the power of one. This country was created specifically because of the rejection of the failed ideas of divine rights of kings.

It's the people, not the man.

This nomination demonstrates the absolute disdain that GWB has for any tradition for any consensus for any of the ideals he has sworn to uphold.

"I know her and that should be enough."

For that reason alone the should be rejected. When will this country return to reason?

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