Miers takes turn before `boards'

October 21, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The briefing books are the same. The White House and Justice Department inquisitors are the same. Even the questions are largely the same: about abortion rights, the right to privacy and the 14th Amendment.

The difference, of course, is that the lead character has changed, as has the political climate. Harriet E. Miers, the unobtrusive White House counsel who helped to run the so-called "murder boards" that prepared Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. for his Senate confirmation hearings, is now the one whose future life as a Supreme Court justice is at stake.

For Roberts, whose years of practice before the Supreme Court left him well-versed in the nuances of constitutional law, the murder boards represented a refresher course. For Miers, an experienced lawyer but one whose career has focused on business matters, the cram sessions represent her last, best chance to prepare for what senators have promised will be an intense and extensive questioning on constitutional law and her qualifications.

Miers, whose confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to begin Nov. 7, has so far practiced in three mock hearings of three to five hours each, the most recent Tuesday. A White House official said Miers and her team planned at least a dozen more, about the same number as for Roberts.

The name grew out of the tough U.S. military system of preparing officers for presentations.

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