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10-28-05 - Friends and former Texas colleagues of Harriet Miers were disappointed Thursday to hear she'd withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court, but Democratic detractors said she made the right decision.
"It's a great loss to the Supreme Court and to the American people," said Alan Bromberg, a Southern Methodist University business law professor who taught Miers when she was a student there in the 1960s.
"She was always very thoughtful, careful, analytical, fair-minded, even-handed and willing to get along with people and try to produce consensus when there was differences," Bromberg said. "Those are qualities I think we can use very strongly in our judiciary."
But Charles Soechting, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said Miers wasn't qualified. A corporate lawyer who was once President Bush's personal attorney, Miers now serves as White House counsel. She has never been a judge.
"Hopefully this will be a signal to the Bush administration that this practice of cronyism has got to stop," said Soechting, a San Marcos lawyer who represented a lottery executive director that was fired by the Texas Lottery Commission when Miers was its chairwoman.
Miers' brother, Robert Miers, groggily answered the door at Miers' Dallas home Thursday morning. He politely said, "the family has no comment, but thank you for coming."
Bush promised a new nominee "in a timely manner." A number of Texans are considered possible candidates, including U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who grew up near Houston, and Emilio Garza, a San Antonio native who sits on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was considered for a Supreme Court seat by the first President Bush.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn, one of Miers' strongest supporters, also has been mentioned as a potential nominee, though he downplayed those suggestions on Thursday.
Cornyn said he thinks it's a shame Miers withdrew, "but this nomination process has gotten, in my view, unnecessarily contentious and downright nasty, making it hard for good people who have good, solid records even to agree to go through this process."
Bush and Miers said she withdrew because senators were demanding to see internal documents related to her role as counsel to the president. But since her nomination on Oct. 3, Miers has been scrutinized by conservatives who doubted she shared their judicial philosophy and ideals.
John Hill, a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court who served with Miers on the Texas Lottery Commission, said Miers' critics were unfair. He said she had plenty of experience dealing with constitutional issues, especially in her last five years at the White House.
"Sure, it may be that she wouldn't be able to quote every obscure case like John Roberts could, but she certainly had a good basic understanding of the core principals of the Constitution," Hill said. Roberts, the newly confirmed Supreme Court Chief Justice, is Bush's first appointee to the court.
Texas attorney Buck Wood, who also represented the fired lottery executive director, said he believes Miers withdrew because Bush aides realized she wouldn't fare well in her confirmation hearings. Several senators had said she would have to be extremely impressive in the hearings to get confirmed.
Wood said Miers is not a very talkative person, and she tends to get combative when backed into a corner.
"When you get up there in front of that panel and she's going to get shot at from both sides, my feeling was she was not going to be able to handle that," he said.
Hill, who said he believes Miers would have been confirmed, said he doesn't think her withdrawal will overshadow her other accomplishments as an attorney.
Miers was the first female attorney hired by her law firm and she later became its first woman president. She also was the first female president of the Dallas Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association.
"You can't wipe out over 30 years of legal excellence," he said. "That's her record. She made it and she made it the hard way."