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Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht didn’t have much time for writing opinions the week after President George W. Bush nominated Hecht’s close friend and fellow evangelical church member Harriet Miers for a seat on the nation’s highest court. “I’m a PR office for the White House,” Hecht says jokingly about the 120 press interviews he estimates he did the week of Oct. 3 to discuss Miers, who he has known since the 1970s when they were partners in the same Dallas law firm, Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely. Media outlets reported that Hecht and Miers dated on and off over the years, but Hecht doesn’t like that characterization. “Dating to me sounds like what you did in high school,” Hecht says. “We saw one another and went to dinner. We were good, closely connected friends then, and we are now.” Hecht’s connection to Miers made him want to defend his longtime friend. Hecht says he called White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove — Bush’s key strategic adviser — to see if it was OK for him to speak with the media. Hecht says his mission is clear: to fill in the gaps about Miers’ background and to counter some conservatives’ skepticism about her qualifications to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Hecht, known as the most conservative justice on the Texas Supreme Court, relays an anecdote about Miers and himself from the 1980s: One evening, he and Miers had attended a lecture together at the Valley View Christian Church in North Dallas, where they were members. After that lecture, Miers shared with Hecht her belief that life begins at conception and abortion is wrong. By repeating that story to reporters nationwide, Hecht — a Republican on the Texas Supreme Court since 1989 — says he’s not saying that he knows how Miers would decide any particular case that might come before her as a justice. But he says he knows she opposes abortion. Hecht says conservatives should rest easy about Miers’ nomination and should not draw comparisons between Bush’s nomination of Miers and President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 nomination of Justice David Souter, whose slim record held no indication of his eventual liberal leanings on the court. “I have the utmost respect for President Bush No. 41, but I doubt he could have picked Justice Souter out of a lineup the day before he appointed the man,” Hecht says. “By contrast, Harriet and the president have worked together hand and glove for 10 years. He’s called her for legal advice, he’s called her for campaign advice, he’s called her to vet judicial appointments. And he knows her as well as you could know anybody. And he’s stood there and watched. You can never be totally sure, particularly concerning someone who has been given a lifetime appointment. But the difference between that situation and this one is night and day.” FRIENDS AND ENEMIES Hecht wasn’t the only high-profile Texas lawyer touting Miers’ abilities and qualifications. U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, and U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Northern District of Texas — all of whom know Miers — consulted with White House aides and launched a full-court press to back her nomination. To persuade Miers’ detractors in Washington — conservatives and liberals alike — that she’s the right person to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, Bush and his advisers wanted other Texans with polished legal credentials to step up to the plate. And they obliged. Each day, Hutchison and Cornyn staffers met with White House staffers, including Jamie Brown, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, to coordinate the day’s efforts to support Miers’ nomination, say Cornyn spokesman Don Stewart and Hutchison spokesman Chris Paulitz. It’s no surprise that Hecht, Cornyn and Hutchison are so helpful to the Bush administration. They share a history with Rove, who during his previous incarnation as a Texas political consultant advised all three on statewide political campaigns. When talking about Miers, Hutchison, Cornyn and Kinkeade insist they didn’t read from talking points distributed by the White House. But overall their message was consistent: Miers is brilliant and conservative, and she will bring real-world experience to the U.S. Supreme Court. Still, conservative syndicated newspaper columnist George Will wrote in an Oct. 5 article, “It is important that Miers not be confirmed unless, in her 61st year, she suddenly and unexpectedly is found to have hitherto undisclosed interests and talents pertinent to the court’s role.” ( “Some people are just itching for a fight,” Cornyn counters, adding that Will’s comment was “unnecessarily harsh and inappropriate. “) And on “ABC World News Tonight,” Virginia Armstrong, the Abilene, Texas-based national chairman for Court Watch, part of the conservative nonprofit, pro-life Eagle Forum organization, predicted electoral fallout as a result of Miers’ nomination. “So many people really became activists in the last election based on George Bush’s promise that he would give us [an Antonin] Scalia or a [Clarence] Thomas. And all the evidence suggests that he has not.” Some of Miers’ critics sounded like snobs: The Dallas native didn’t attend Harvard or Yale. Instead, she earned her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law, where she was the comments editor of the SMU Law Review. Her supporters reinforced the notion that a lawyer doesn’t have to be an Ivy Leaguer from the Northeast to sit on the Supreme Court. Miers “is not cut in the same mold as most of the other Supreme Court justices, having gone to an Ivy League institution and then gone into government or academia. But I think that’s important. I think she brings a diversity to the court in background, experience and geography that’s very important,” Hutchison told reporters on Oct. 5 at a Washington, D.C., press conference. Kinkeade agrees: “If she doesn’t have the legal qualifications to be on the Supreme Court, then nobody in Texas does,” he snorts. He says he had never before noticed that seven of the Supreme Court’s nine current justices graduated from Harvard Law School or Yale Law School. Kinkeade says sardonically, “Well, excuse me. You can be smart and still say “y’all.’” In the Senate, Hutchison and Cornyn met with colleagues to ease fears about Miers’ nomination. Paulitz says Hutchison, who is also a lawyer, and Miers have been friends for decades; they go to the opera together and often have dinner with each other. Cornyn — a former Texas Supreme Court justice and Texas attorney general — expressed support for Miers in an Oct. 5 Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Those of us who do know and have worked with Ms. Miers think very highly of her… . I know that she believes, as I do, that judges are not some sort of elite to impose their preferences on the rest of us.” In an interview with Texas Lawyer, Cornyn says he received talking points from the White House on the Miers nomination and that there was “discussion about getting accurate information about her out there. There is a certain arrogance or elitism when it comes to qualifications for the Supreme Court. People who went to Ivy League schools tend to look down their noses at someone who came from somewhere else. But I think Harriet will bring … practical experience, and that will be useful to the court,” Cornyn says. Forty-one of the last 109 Supreme Court justices had no previous judicial experience, Cornyn adds. At SMU Dedman School of Law, Dean John B. Attanasio expresses joy about the nomination of his now-most famous alum. He says he “levitated off the bed” when he learned about the nomination a few minutes before the president and Miers walked in for their initial press conference on Oct. 3. But since that heady day, Attanasio has wanted to respond to some comments in the media that his law school is not a good enough training ground for a future Supreme Court justice. “I guess Texas just doesn’t count,” he says. SMU law school alumni are judges presiding over courtrooms all over the world, including at least five federal benches, more than a dozen Texas state courts, including the Texas Supreme Court, and two seats on the highest court of Japan, Attanasio says. The Dallas law school is also the headquarters for the Appellate Judges Education Institute. The nonprofit organization administers the American Bar Association’s Appellate Judges Conference, which provides continuing legal education for state and federal appellate judges. At conferences the law school sponsors almost every year, Attanasio says, SMU law students spend time with U.S. Supreme Court justices who attend the sessions. Attanasio concedes SMU has a lower profile nationally, because some 85 percent of the law school’s graduates stay in Texas. But within the Lone Star State, the dean says, his law school is known for alumni who are corporate chieftains, first-rate lawyers and judges, including Hecht. And, despite George Will, possibly Miers.

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