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If words of support were billable hours, the Bush administration racked up a big bill on Monday, when six former Texas Supreme Court justices flew to Washington, D.C., to help convince the public that Texas-lawyer-turned-White House-counsel Harriet Miers deserves to be on the U.S. Supreme Court. After meeting with President George W. Bush on Monday morning, the bipartisan group of former justices talked up Miers’ accomplishments and talents during a press conference on the White House driveway with members of the national press corps. “Clearly we wanted to convey to the country that people in Texas know Harriet, they have confidence in her,” says Craig Enoch, a former justice on the Texas Supreme Court who is now a shareholder in Winstead Sechrest & Minick in Austin. Former Chief Justice John L. Hill Jr. says the White House asked him and the other former justices to talk about why Miers will make a good justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. In his view, the press conference was successful because, even for a day, it helped change the focus of the debate about Miers’ qualifications. “It turned out to be a huge success, from all of the playback,” Hill says. “It was absolutely the right thing to do to change the emphasis on what was being discussed.” Hill, a partner in Winstead in Houston, served on the Texas Lottery Commission with Miers and is a former partner in Locke Liddell & Sapp, the firm she helped manage before joining the Bush administration in 2001. The ex-Supreme Court justices weren’t the only Texas lawyers heeding a call to help shore up support for Miers. On Wednesday, for instance, 13 former Dallas Bar Association presidents and the current president, Baker Botts partner Tim W. Mountz, held a press conference to talk about Miers. One of the former DBA honchos, Darrell Jordan, managing partner of the Dallas office of Godwin Gruber who is also a former State Bar of Texas president, says he and some other former State Bar presidents planned to travel to Washington today to publicly endorse Miers’ nomination. THE D.C. WAY In addition to Hill and Enoch, the group of former Texas Supreme Court justices who went to Washington, D.C., for Miers includes Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott; Raul Gonzalez, now of counsel at Locke Liddell in Austin; James Baker, a partner in Hughes & Luce in Dallas; and Eugene Cook, a retired partner in Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani. Former Chief Justice Tom Phillips says he was also asked to go on the jaunt to the nation’s capital, but could not make the trip because of a personal emergency. But Phillips, Hill and Joe Greenhill, another former chief justice who is now of counsel at Baker Botts in Austin, sent a joint letter on Oct. 14 to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Miers. “We feel confident that we know what it takes to be a justice — Harriet Miers exceeds that mark,” the trio of justices wrote in the letter. Jack Pope, another former chief justice, says he also wrote a letter to the Judiciary Committee in support of Miers. “I’ve known her as president of the State Bar. I think she’s able and competent, and they attack her by saying she doesn’t understand constitutional law,” says Pope, now retired in Austin. “I think maybe the whole court would benefit to have somebody who’s actually been trying those cases and trying them before a jury.” Phillips, a partner in Baker Botts in Austin, says Miers is well-qualified because of her experience in the courtroom, her stint in firm management and her government service. He gives short shrift to arguments that she’s unqualified, because she has not been a judge, or because she went to law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “These are all make-weight arguments, because somebody is mad about something,” Phillips says. But why did six prominent Texas justices need to fly to Washington, D.C., to tell the nation, through reporters, that Miers is well respected in Texas and qualified to fill retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court? Hill says that’s a good question, but one he can’t answer. “You explain Washington to me. I can’t explain it to you.” “It’s necessary because there are a whole lot of people who don’t know Harriet Miers who decided to dump on her as unqualified, as not a serious thinker or too obsessed with detail,” says Phillips. “I don’t think it would be necessary if people were behaving themselves up there.” Enoch notes, “Apparently nobody hears it unless you go to D.C. to say it.” “It’s a sad commentary on what the process has become,” says Gonzalez. Jordan and Mountz say Progress for America, a Washington, D.C., conservative fund-raising group, arranged for and partially paid for the press event in Dallas, and Jordan says the group is helping to arrange his upcoming trip to Washington. The group also worked on the logistics of the former justices’ trip and will “sponsor them financially,” says Progress for America spokeswoman Jessica Boulanger. Several of the former justices who made the trip, including Baker, Gonzalez and Hill, say they paid for their travel. Jim Dyke, a special assistant to the president who is working on the Miers nomination, says Project for America will cover the cost of each ex-justice’s trip to Washington, D.C., if they want to be reimbursed.

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