A tale of two nominees

Harriet Miers' abortion views will get all the attention, but her qualifications -- or lack thereof -- are important, too.

Published October 18, 2005 6:57PM (EDT)

As we noted earlier today, Harriet Miers' responses to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire reveal that she is -- or was -- a staunch opponent of abortion rights. That's the revelation, such as it is, that will get the headlines tomorrow. But there's something else in Miers' questionnaire that deserves some attention: the confirmation of just how little federal court experience the nominee really has.

When John G. Roberts submitted his questionnaire responses over the summer, he was able to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had argued more than 65 cases in the federal appellate courts, including 39 before the U.S. Supreme Court. He said the subject matter of those cases "covered the full range of federal jurisdiction, including administrative law, admiralty, antitrust, arbitration, banking, bankruptcy, civil rights, constitutional law, environmental law, federal jurisdiction and procedure, First Amendment, health care law, Indian law, interstate commerce, labor law and patent and trade dress law."

Harriet Miers? She remembers serving as lead or sole counsel in only four trials that went as far as a verdict, and there's no indication in her responses that the trials took place in federal court. She remembers arguing four appeals in federal court, but only two of those turned primarily on federal-law issues -- and one of those, which she argued on behalf of George W. Bush, involved the rarely litigated 12th Amendment. As for the U.S. Supreme Court? Miers says she filed petitions for certiorari on behalf of two pro bono clients. The Supreme Court denied them both.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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