Faith seen as guiding force in Miers' life

But little indication how it might color opinions

October 05, 2005|By ROBERT LITTLE AND JONATHAN D. ROCKOFF | ROBERT LITTLE AND JONATHAN D. ROCKOFF,SUN REPORTERS

DALLAS -- U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers is a devout Christian who found the church later in life, developing a faith that has led her to oppose abortion and anything else that runs counter to the teachings of Christ, her close friends and acquaintances say.

The suburban church she joined 25 years ago - where she taught Sunday school and volunteered for the youth ministry - is a conservative, evangelical parish that generally rejects homosexuality and regards abortion as a sin. Within the past few weeks, she and about 150 other members split off to form a new church, saying they wanted a more staid and traditional place of worship.

In interviews with people who know Miers, and in her writings as president of the Texas bar association, an image emerges of a jurist devoted to the deliberate, scholarly practice of law and to protecting the rights of women, minorities and the underprivileged. Equally apparent is the role her Christian faith plays in molding the viewpoints and priorities of her private life.

How those qualities would color her opinions about abortion rights or other social issues likely to come before the Supreme Court is being debated in Washington, and even among her friends.

"Harriet is pro-life, and has been active in a pro-life church for 25 years," said Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, a longtime colleague and close friend who introduced Miers to the church. "But that doesn't say anything about how she would decide a case put before her."

"She is a born-again Christian woman who brings that worldview, and I think it's impossible to ask her - or a Jew, or a Muslim, or a nonbeliever or an atheist - to leave all of her spiritual views aside. It's foolhardy to expect that," said Raul A. Gonzalez, a longtime acquaintance and retired Texas Supreme Court justice. "The question is whether that is a disqualifier for being on the U.S. Supreme Court, and it certainly is not."

During her tenure as president of the State Bar of Texas in the early 1990s, Miers published regular columns about her priorities on the job, offering some of the few glimpses - albeit vague ones - into her mind's approach to the law. And just as she is portrayed by friends, Miers comes across in those writings as someone who rarely draws attention to herself but who seeks consensus to solve problems and values the role the law can play.

A common theme was her belief that the legal community should do more to assist people who feel shut out from the legal system.

"We cannot afford all-consuming, continuous, unproductive, unduly divisive, distracting and self-flagellating discussion ... to drain all of our time and resources," she wrote for an audience of fellow lawyers. "There is too much work to do and too many productive steps we can take to help ensure delivery of legal services to the poor."

Twice she invoked the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance, urging fellow lawyers not to forget that it promises "justice for all."

"Lawyers are about seeking the truth, preserving a system to achieve fairness and justice, and protecting the freedom of individuals against the tyranny of the majority view," she wrote in March 1993.

In an interview published in the Texas Bar Journal in 1992, when asked whether women should still be considered a minority in the association considering they occupied its top three positions, she indicated sympathy for the plight of professional women.

"A single or few women achieving success is not the sole indicator that all unfair barriers for women have been eradicated," she said. The sentiment was broadened to include other minority groups when she later wrote: "We are blessed with higher education and in most instances relative economic well-being. ... Our legal community must reflect our population as a whole and it should be a role model for all those who would examine us."

Her writings offer little additional insight into her political leanings, a fact that acquaintances say generally reflects her personality.

"I wouldn't know what Harriet Miers' political views are at all," said Kelly Frels, immediate past president of the Texas bar association. "She has never given me the impression she is any ideologue, except in her belief people should give back to the community."

Because of Miers' scant record of meaningful judicial deliberation, many Republicans have decried her nomination, saying her credentials as a conservative are shaky at best. Miers once owned a handgun, for instance, but Hecht said that it was a gift from her brother and that he was not sure whether she still has it. Her writings give no hint of her interpretation of the Second Amendment.

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