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October 06, 2005

Do You Need an Ivy League Degree?

The latest rhetorical ploy from the rightwing in defense of Harriet Miers is to accuse her critics of being snobs for denigrating her education at Southern Methodist University and for not publishing in hoity-toity law reviews. Or as Hugh Hewitt says:

Many of the Harriet Miers critics sniff at her ABA credentials --president of both the Dallas and then the Texas Bar Association. The second group of sniffers argue that SMU isn't much of a law school, by which they mean that it isn't a law school in the league with say Harvard, Michigan, Chicago or Stanford. And they don't much like the fact that Ms. Miers isn't a writer of law review articles.
Or see Beldarblog for more..

Since it's fun to just quote conservatives slamming conservatives, here's David Frum's response:

Those who object to the Miers nomination do not object to her lack of credentials. They object to her lack of what the credentials represent: some indication of outstanding ability. The objection to Miers is not that she is not experienced enough or not expensively enough educated for the job. It is that she is not good enough for the job.
In a sense, the right is just reviving the rhetoric of Senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska who said, when Richard Nixon nominated Harold Carswell, with his an undistinguished record, for the Supreme Court : "Even if he was mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that there."

But a lot of people will say that interpreting the Constitution shouldn't take a high level education. It's not that complicated a document and most of the legalese in court opinions is just obscuring the basic value choices of each judge.

Which I actually agree with in the abstract, but then I think judicial power should be quite simple and limited. But most conservatives don't want that. Some of the most complicated legal doctrine involves federalism and issues of when and where state sovereignty preempts federal statutory authority.

Now for me, a simple reading of Article VI which says that "Laws of the United States...shall be the supreme Law of the Law" makes all that legalese irrelevant. Federal law trumps state law. Simple, easy.

But I doubt most conservatives really want to sacrifice all the legalese and theories that override that-- along with all the other conservative judicial activism.

And of course, most of what Supreme Court Justices do is interpret statutes, which require not only understanding long and complicated rules and regulations, but also understanding the facts and likely effects of decisions on the economy and society.

Now, Harriet Miers may have that, but she needs to demonstrate that in the hearings, since she has no paper trail indicating it. A paper trail is not just an indicator of ideology but, in a profession made up of paper filings, it's evidence of competence and engagement with the law. No paper trail and you have to wonder what Harriet Miers has been doing for so many years to leave no written footprints.

Posted by Nathan at October 6, 2005 09:39 AM