From City Council to Supreme Court?

I know even less about Harriet Miers, President Bush's new Supreme Court pick, than most people blogging about her today. But there's one thing about ...
by | October 3, 2005

I know even less about Harriet Miers, President Bush's new Supreme Court pick, than most people blogging about her today. But there's one thing about her that I like.

Miers served, from 1989 to 1991, on the Dallas city council. I have no idea how she performed in that job. All the quick bios of her that are floating around the blogosphere note her reticence, but this proves it: a Nexis search of the Dallas Morning News during her tenure finds that her name never made it into the paper at all. (A story the paper ran in March about her appointment as White House counsel mentions her earlier service, but found nothing to say about it.)

Still, the fact that she ran and served as an elected official, particularly as a legislator, is meaningful. There was a lot of talk during John Roberts' confirmation process about his life in the rarefied world of appellate law, wondering whether he possessed a true understanding of the Court's impact on average people. Perhaps a more legitimate concern is that no one on the Court--except for Sandra Day O'Connor, the woman Miers would replace--has ever done time as an elected official. (O'Connor was a state Senator in Arizona).

Back in 1994, Alan Ehrenhalt, our executive editor, wrote in Governing about the importance of practical political experience. Too many justices who had lived far above the political fray don't understand the on-the-ground consequences of their fiats:

"We want our Supreme Court justices to be perched somewhere above politics; that is why we appoint them to office and leave them there for life. But we shouldn't want them to be too far above it, or too disdainful of the people who have to practice it on a day-to-day basis. In the end, the toughest political problems are always going to be ones the politicians have to solve on their own. Reform by coercion is a dangerous strategy in the long run."

Sandra Day O'Connor was an exception to this. Perhaps Harriet Miers can be as well. Maybe her experience on the council, brief and uncelebrated as it was, is more important than her lack of experience on the bench.

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