Tuesday, October 04, 2005



Cronyism at its finest

That is the only way to describe George Bush's nomination for Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. Unlike everyone else currently on the Court, Harriet Miers has never been a judge. Neither has she been a legal academic, worked at the highest levels of the government, or served as a legislator - the other traditional avenues to nomination. But she has worked as George W. Bush's personal lawyer, assisted his campaign, and is a "close personal friend of the president". I guess that trumps actual qualifications or experience any day of the week - especially when several other Bush cronies - and possibly even the President himself - are in legal hot water.

Actually, there is one thing she has going for her: a complete lack of a paper trail. In recent years, judicial confirmation hearings have revolved around scrutinising previous decisions or published papers for some insight into the nominee's position on issues such as abortion or state's rights. But like Chief Justice Roberts, Miers is a virtual unknown with no past opinions hanging around to raise awkward questions. Which is I suspect the point; Bush gets to stack the court, while severely limiting the Senate's power to "advise and consent".

Just a Bump in the Beltway has some more on Miers here...

6 comments:

the president should not be nominating judges anyway - they should be picked on merit presumably by some sort of pannel of experts.

Posted by Genius : 10/04/2005 07:25:00 AM

BTW, it's been interesting reading high profile conservative pundits like William Kristol & David Frum fretting that Harriet Miers doesn't have a long enough paper trail to prove her ideological reliability - and crusing the boards the hard right are going NUCLEAR. Who knows she might turn out to be another (gasp!) Sandra Day O'Connor - one of those nasty jurists who have minds of their own, and reliably piss off the loony left and the rabid right.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 10/04/2005 10:41:00 AM

Who knows were this one could lead. But given the recent right wing statements from the US regarding judges pushing their own liberal agendas, I think Bill Frist's comments might be a clue.

"Miers ... understands the importance of judicial restraint and the limited role of a judge to interpret the law,"

Reading between the lines I know, but nothing about this bunch would suprise me anymore.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/04/2005 11:09:00 AM

Fraser:

Perhaps, but I wonder if that's anything more than an expression of Frist's unusually disciplined tendency not to disagree with the White House in public. Call me cynical, but I suspect both the loony left and the rabid right only like "judicial restraint" from the "other side". Which might explain why Roberts had the honour, in punditry terms, of getting the thumbs down from Ann Coulter and Maureen Dowd on the same day. ;P

I seriously have to wonder whether someone like Sandra Day O'Connor - who turned out to be "conservative" in her jurisprudence to the frequent frustration of the political right - would agree to have their name put up, let alone get confirmed.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 10/04/2005 11:36:00 AM

The US has a problem.

Their constitution really seems to have been set up to limit the role of the federal govt to a lot less than it is now. Which made sense 200 years ago, but doesn't work for a modern nation.

The Supreme Court knuckled under to the federal govt extending its powers under FDR in the 1930s when the govt set up a lot of fed agencies because FDR threatened to deal unto the court otherwise (the "switch in time that saved nine"). Now an awful lot of odd federal stuff (like the FDA, federal environment legislation, federal energy regulation, etc) is justified under the constitutional excuse that it is permitted to the federal govt because they are allowed to "regulate interstate commerce". Eisenhower got their interstate highways approved as an essential measure for National Defence.

A serious common-sense 'restrained' view of the constitutional would throw out much of what the federal govt does. Which would mean the state govts would step in and each do it differently. The results would be disasterous ("your river water? But we're upstream, matey" "Cocaine's legal here in Louisiana: 'course exporting it to other States isn't but we sell it at handy highway stalls by the state borders.") So the question is not "do you stretch the consitution in ways that would have horrified jurists 100 years ago" instead the question is "how far do you stretch it".

There's good reasons I'm anti the idea of NZ getting a consitution. Any nation that has one seems to devote a good deal of ingenuity to interpreting it in creative ways, because they need to when situations change.

Posted by Icehawk : 10/04/2005 11:59:00 AM

> getting the thumbs down from Ann Coulter and Maureen Dowd on the same day. ;P

Wow all of a sudden I have a good inpression of this lady...

Posted by Genius : 10/04/2005 06:54:00 PM