Because Harriet Miers was on nobody’s Supreme Court short list, her surprise nomination to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Conner set off a mad rush to pigeonhole her politics and judicial philosophy. So when an offer came my way to talk to a longtime friend and colleague, I jumped at the chance, visions dancing in my head of scooping the MSM on the intimate details of Miers’ views on Roe v. Wade and other issues of the day.
Yeah… dream on.
Instead, what I got from attorney Tom Fitzpatrick was a heartfelt endorsement of Miers that is not likely to satisfy activists on either side of the political spectrum.
Fitzpatrick describes Miers as a “smart, cautious and capable lawyer” who will bring much needed “real life experience” to the bench. He pointed out that many of our finest Justices had never served as judges, and that Miers experience in local government and as a practicing attorney would likely temper her decisions: “Harriet understands the impact that judicial decisions have on people, businesses and local governments.”
But Fitzpatrick was most impressed by Miers’ personal and ongoing commitment to performing pro bono work, and her “stalwart leadership” in both the Dallas and Texas State Bar Associations in providing access to justice for the poor. In fact, the only remotely negative comment I could get out of Fitzpatrick was a fit of laughter at reports that Miers’ allegedly described President Bush as the most brilliant man she had ever met. Fitzpatrick says he does not share Miers’ opinion of the President’s intellect.
Neither do they share political philosophies. While Fitzpatrick describes Miers as a “traditional, conservative Republican,” he labels himself a “liberal Democrat.”
After 22 years in private practice, and five years as one of the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office’s top civil attorneys, Fitzpatrick was recently appointed Executive Director by Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. He has served on the American Bar Association’s Board of Governors, representing the Northwest region, and as the WA State Bar Association’s representative to the ABA’s House of Delegates. It was there that he met and worked with Miers, with whom he has remained friends for over a decade.
Of course, the question everybody is itching to ask is where does Miers stand on Roe v. Wade… and alas, she and Fitzpatrick never directly discussed the issue. As has been widely reported, after the ABA House of Delegates voted to formally adopt a resolution in support of Roe, Miers led an unsuccessful effort to send the issue directly to members via a referendum. But Fitzpatrick points out that Miers’ campaign was conducted on behalf of the Texas State Bar Association, and that she objected to the resolution on grounds that it was not germane to the purposes of the ABA. While he seems to suspect that Miers is personally pro-life, Fitzpatrick believes that she is a “blank slate” on the legal issues surrounding abortion, and that her actions in the ABA or on behalf of corporate clients simply do not tell us one thing or another about her judicial philosophy.
While many wags on both the right and the left have ridiculed Miers’ qualifications, Fitzpatrick is confident that she’ll make an excellent justice… well… for a Republican. If this were a Democratic administration Fitzpatrick would expect and prefer a more liberal nominee, but he thinks Democrats are damn lucky to get somebody like Miers from a Bush appointment.
Looking back at the short list that Miers wasn’t on, it could have been worse. Much worse.