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Miers Begins Process of Scrutiny by Press and Politicians


Questions are already emerging about President George W. Bush's choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

White House counsel Harriet Miers is a woman with an impressive resume, but no experience as a judge.

The White House is portraying Harriet Miers as a trailblazer for women in the legal profession, especially through a successful career as a trial litigator.

In 1985, Ms. Miers was the first woman to become president of the Dallas Bar Association, and was elected President of the Texas State Bar in 1992. In 1996, she was appointed by then-Texas Governor George W. Bush to a six-year term on the Texas Lottery Commission, and was credited with cleaning up the organization after it was mired in scandal.

But she has never served as a judge - a fact that some lawmakers are already raising as an issue.

If confirmed, Ms. Miers would replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who often provided the so-called "swing vote" among the 9-member court on many key cases involving constitutional rights of Americans, such as a woman's right to an abortion.

Senator Charles Schumer is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that will confirm or reject Ms. Miers' nomination. Senator Schumer voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, complaining about Judge Roberts' refusal to reveal to Senators his personal beliefs on a number of issues, including abortion.

The New York Democrat says he has concerns about President Bush's latest nominee. "So for the second time in a row he's sent us a nominee who we really don't know that much about."

Senator Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat, says she is pleased that President Bush chose a woman for the position. But she says there are still unanswered questions about Ms. Miers. "Now, what her values are, and where she will stand in this very conservative court we don't know, and that's what we have to take a look at," said Senator Feinstein.

But others are praising Ms. Miers' experience, including the Senate leader of the Democratic Party, Harry Reid of Nevada. "But Harriet Miers has served with distinction as a trial lawyer, that's what I am, I'm a trial lawyer,” said Senator Reid. “So anyone with that background makes me feel good."

Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, also dismissed criticism of Ms. Miers' lack of judicial experience. "But the fact is more than 40 Supreme Court justices were nominated and confirmed to that position without prior judicial experience. But I do think she has the professional experience that will prepare her for this position"

Ms. Miers has served as counsel to the President since February 2005, and is described as one of his most trusted confidants. When pressed by reporters, White House spokesman Scott McClellan declined to describe the type of counsel Ms. Miers has provided the president. But he deflected suggestions that her appointment was the result of political cronyism, calling her ' the best person for the position.'

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