Two former Texas Supreme Court chief justices are the White House’s latest weapon in the fight to calm the conservative uproar over Harriet Miers’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
John Hill and Thomas Phillips are due to arrive in Washington tomorrow, bringing testimonials about Miss Miers’ qualifications based on their dealings with her in Texas.
Despite his longtime support of President Bush, Mr. Hill is a Democrat whose word may not be the right salve for those conservative Republicans most nervous about Miss Miers’ judicial philosophy.
Whether either Mr. Hill or Mr. Phillips has heard Miss Miers argue the kind of cases that might rebut criticism that she lacks knowledge of constitutional issues also was not clear.
The White House seeks to refocus the debate on the White House counsel’s resume as a distinguished lawyer in Texas and legal adviser at the highest levels of government. The appearance by Mr. Hill and Mr. Phillips is part of that tack.
“Part of it is to reassure those who don’t know her that she’s the real deal,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who is trying to help smooth the way for Miss Miers’ confirmation, said yesterday.
Mr. Cornyn said the two former Texas justices plan to tell personal stories of their experience watching Miss Miers operate in the upper echelons of the state’s legal circles. Mr. Hill was a member of the Texas Lottery Commission with Miss Miers in the late 1990s, and Mr. Phillips was chief justice when Miss Miers was president of the State Bar of Texas from 1992 to 1993.
In a letter Friday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Hill and Mr. Phillips said Miss Miers’ accomplishments in Texas — leader of a prestigious law firm, the first female president of both the Dallas Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas — “can only be attributed to her legal brilliance.”
“We feel confident that we know what it takes to be a justice — Harriet Miers exceeds that mark,” they said in the letter, also signed by former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Joe R. Greenhill.
Both Mr. Hill and Mr. Phillips also know Miss Miers as friends and social acquaintances, said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. She could not say whether either man had seen Miss Miers argue cases as a Dallas lawyer from 1972 to 2000.
Mr. Cornyn acknowledged that still-skeptical senators might not be swayed by two judges from Texas, especially because Mr. Hill is a Democrat.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “It’s just a bit of evidence in the scale of justice.”