- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005


Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers looked close to home, or the office, in choosing the free legal cases to take on as a private lawyer. No sweeping constitutional matters for her — or very contentious ones.

She helped a garage attendant for her firm’s building complete an adoption. She won a case for a Nigerian woman who was fighting a deportation order. She lost when representing an indigent single mother who was denied disability benefits.

“She handled small matters,” said lawyer Jerry Clements, who has worked with Miss Miers. “Somebody needed a divorce, somebody needed an adoption.”

As head of the State Bar of Texas, she urged lawyers to take on more pro bono, or unpaid, cases for the poor, but she resisted proposals to make such work mandatory.

“The real issue is how to provide more services of better quality to the poor who need them,” she said.

Her Dallas law firm, Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP, didn’t keep track of how many free cases she accepted or how many hours she devoted to them, and associates are not aware of her doing so on a frequent basis.

In any event, her pro bono cases were strikingly more private or limited in legal precedent than those taken on by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. when he worked as a lawyer at the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson for about 13 years.

In her pro bono work, as in other aspects of her career, Miss Miers left a light mark on matters of great controversy.

Chief Justice Roberts provided assistance on a death row appeal, helped lawyers on Supreme Court arguments to overturn a Colorado referendum that would have allowed discrimination against homosexuals and advised Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the 2000 presidential election dispute.

Miss Miers once pitched in with Catholic Charities of Dallas to save a woman from being sent back to her native Nigeria.

That woman “was alone in life with her little baby, just a kind of a victim in a terrible relationship,” said Vanna Slaughter, who handles immigration matters for Catholic Charities.

Miss Slaughter said Miss Miers met the woman separately, called the charity offering her help, and must have spent more than 100 hours on the case.

“It was a pretty daunting situation, and she prevailed in it,” Miss Slaughter said.

Mr. Clements said Miss Miers also helped a man who parked cars in their firm’s garage.

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