Miers questionnaire shows abortion ban support

[JURIST] US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive] Tuesday submitted her responses [PDF text] to written questions posed by the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website], revealing past support for a constitutional amendment banning abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother. Responding to a 1989 survey [PDF text, with Miers' response] of Dallas city council candidates, Miers indicated that she would actively support ratification by the Texas Legislature of a "Human Life Amendment" to the US constitution. Miers also said she would oppose the use of public money for abortions and would use her influence to keep people with "pro-abortion" views off Texas health boards and commissions.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Op-ed: Two Cheers for Harriet Miers | Op-ed: In Praise of Treachery: The Relevance of Prior Judicial Experience

Addressing how she would resolve any potential conflict of interest arising from her service in the Bush administration and as Bush's personal lawyer, Miers wrote that she would fully comply with ethical guidelines and the judicial code of conduct:
I would resolve any potential conflict of interest by abiding by both the spirit and the letter of the law. I would comply with the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, 28 U. S. C. Section 455, the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, and other applicable requirements. These proscriptions would provide needed direction concerning the recusals necessary as a result of my government service or previous representations as a private lawyer.
Discussing criticisms of "judicial activism" on the part of the federal judiciary, Miers wrote that courts should interpret the law and not serve as policy makers:
The role of the judiciary in our system of government is limited. While its role and its independence are essential to the proper functioning of our tripartite system of government, the courts cannot be the solution to society's ills, and the independence of the courts provides no license for them to be free-wheeling. And, of course, parties should not be able to establish social policy through court action, having failed to persuade the legislative branch or the executive branch of the wisdom and correctness of their preferred course. Courts are to be arbiters of disputes, not policy makers. As has been said many times, the role of the courts is to interpret law and not to make it. ...

"Judicial activism" can occur when a judge ignores the principles of precedent and stare decisis. Humility and self-restraint require the judiciary to adhere to its limited role and recognize that where applicable precedent exists, courts are not free to ignore it. Mere disagreement with a result is insufficient to justify ignoring applicable precedent, but reconsideration under appropriate circumstances is also necessary. There are clear examples, like Brown v. Board of Education, where revisiting precedent is not only right, it is prudent. Any decision to revisit a precedent should follow only the most careful consideration of the factors that courts have deemed relevant to that question. Thus, whether the prior decision is wrong is only the beginning of the inquiry. The court must also consider other factors, such as whether the prior decision has proven unworkable, whether developments in the law have undermined the precedent, and whether legitimate reliance interests militate against overruling. ...

Judicial review by the Supreme Court, including determining the meaning of the Constitution and declaring unconstitutional the actions of another branch of government, is a tremendous power exercised by judges who are not accountable to the electorate. Because their power is so great, and because it is largely unchecked, judges must be vigilant in exercising their power in a humble, prudent, and limited way. The courts must always be ready to decide cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and to do so fairly and without regard to the wealth or power of the litigants before them. But it is just as important for the courts to stand ready not to decide in instances that do not call for a decision.
Miers also warned against infringing on the independence of the courts, saying that judges shouldn't be unduly criticized because of an outcome in a particular case:
Criticism of courts that overstep their role is justified. We must zealously guard, however, the independence of the courts. While legitimate criticism of judicial activism is healthy, even essential, we must be wary of unduly criticizing judges merely because we disagree with the result in a particular case. Judges are given life tenure and independence to shield them from the potential tyranny of the majority. While life tenure and independence should not be a license to usurp the rule of law in favor of a rule of man, they provide an essential structural protection to ensure that judges are able to make decisions based only on the fundamental vision of the Founders - the rule of law.
Read the full text of Miers' responses [PDF]. Additional attachments, including financial disclosure statements, are available here. AP has more.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.