Miers Withdraws Her Nomination as Supreme Court Justice

WASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - In the face of mounting criticism about her qualifications, Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States, announced by President George W. Bush on October 3. President Bush this morning accepted her withdrawal. Miers will continue in her current position as white House counsel.

The President cited his concern that the Senate confirmation process would have put pressure on the White House to reveal Miers' confidential advice to the President.

"Senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House - disclosures that would undermine a President's ability to receive candid counsel," Bush said. "Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the Constitutional separation of powers - and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."

Because Miers was nominated to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who sometimes served to break a deadlock on environmental issues, the position is seen as a crucial one for an American environment increasingly at risk of destruction by development.

Miers

Miers has served as Counsel to the President since February, 2005. Prior to that, she served as assistant to the President and staff secretary. (Photo courtesy State Department)
The environmental community had adopted a wait and see attitude toward the nomination, but expressed caution because Miers has never served as a judge and so had no published opinions on environmental issues.

However, "her long working relationship with a president whose own environmental record leaves much to be desired," was a factor that raised the level of wariness with which environmenalists viewed the nomination, wrote Bush Greenwatch writer Edward Flattau.

Miers' loyalty extended to her support for the President's push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling, which environmentalists say would ruin the nation's last pristine wild area while failing to extract enough oil to do more than lower the price at the gas pump by 1.5 cents in the year 2025.

Upcoming legislation to remove protections from the Endangered Species Act, the legal battle over the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act, limits on the authority of the federal government to permit wetlands development, and the removal of opportunities for public input into environmental permitting decisions might all come before the U.S. Supreme Court in the next few years.

Miers has been a Bush loyalist since the Texas days when she was his personal lawyer and counsel to his successful 1994 gubernatorial campaign. But when Bush was governor, Texas led the nation in factory emissions of toxic and ozone-producing chemicals.

"Just how much Miers had to do with this sorry state of affairs is unclear," Flattau writes. "But she was at Bush's side while Texas air quality was taking a hit, certainly a relationship that needs to be explored by senators who must vote on her confirmation and are unsure of what her judicial values would be."

Now senators will not need to explore Miers' environmental views.

Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, was a supporter of Miers' nomination. He says the conservative right wing killed her changes to sit on the nation's highest court, and Reid urged the President not to "reward the bad behavior of his right-wing base" in the next nomination.

Reid

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is one of 100 senators who must confirm Supreme Court justices. (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
“I had recommended that the President consider nominating Ms. Miers because I was impressed with her record of achievement as the managing partner of a major Texas law firm and the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association," said Reid. "In those roles she was a strong supporter of law firm diversity policies and a leader in promoting legal services for the poor. But these credentials are not good enough for the right wing: they want a nominee with a proven record of supporting their skewed goals."

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat, said, "I hope that the President honors the Constitution’s mandate and seeks the 'advice and consent' of the Senate as he considers his next nominee to serve on the Supreme Court. Whomever he chooses must be a guardian of the rule of law who puts fairness and justice before ideology."

Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said today, "I do not believe that this nomination was withdrawn simply because of the President’s refusal to release White House documents. That is a fig leaf to cover the real problem which was a badly mismanaged and rushed nomination."

"The President should follow the tradition of past presidents’ handling of Supreme Court vacancies and nominate a moderate candidate after full consultation with the key Democratic and Republican members of the Senate," said Boxer.

Right wing conservatives were pleased with Miers' withdrawal. From Colorado Springs, Focus on the Family Action founder and chairman Dr. James Dobson said President Bush "made a wise decision" in accepting Miers' withdrawal.

"In recent days I have grown increasingly concerned about her conservative credentials, and I was dismayed to learn this week about her speech in 1993, in which she sounded pro-abortion themes, and expressed so much praise for left-wing feminist leaders," Dobson said.

Dobson

Dr. James Dobson says Focus on the Family's primary reason for existence is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While Miers is an evangelical Christian, Dobson did not approve. (Photo courtesy Focus on the Family)
"Ms. Miers' withdrawal presents President Bush with an opportunity to put forward a nominee that will allow for a substantive and dignified debate about the role of a judge and respect for the Constitution while uniting his conservative base," said Richard Viguerie of the website ConservativeHQ.

"President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court has ignited a firestorm in the conservative community," wrote Viguerie. "This nomination has served to bring some conservative frustrations to the surface."

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that the Miers withdrawal "demonstrates that the radical right is in charge of judicial selection for this White House."

"The withdrawal of this nomination exposes the right wing's real agenda. They won't be satisfied unless the president puts forth a nominee who is an avowed opponent of Roe v. Wade and who will shift the Court in a direction that threatens fundamental freedoms and liberties Americans cherish," Keenan said.

Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, a liberal public advocacy group, said, "This is an astonishing spectacle. I'm not sure in my 30 years of working on Supreme Court nominations I've ever seen a more total and abject capitulation by a United States President to the far right of his party. This is a complete surrender, and I think it demonstrates the ultra-right wing dominance of Republican Party politics is total."

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron said today, "An influential segment of the right wing was profoundly disappointed that, with Harriet Miers, the president did not nominate a proven 'movement' conservative who would carry out their political agenda on the bench. They have been clamoring for the withdrawal of Ms. Miers' nomination for weeks. What has happened today is an ominous indication of capitulation to such pressure."

"An independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our democracy. It is too vital to be used as a means of placating a political party's base," said Aron.

"As the president makes another attempt to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's pivotal seat, we encourage him to work in good faith with members of both parties to choose a consensus nominee who is committed to equal justice. The new nominee should not merely serve the interests of the radical right. He or she must serve the interests of the American people - in their entirety - by protecting and enforcing our rights, freedoms and legal protections."