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U.S. Supreme Court

Unhappy senators demand more from Miers

They ask for details of her cases, copies of her written documents and an explanation for her bar suspension this year.

Published October 20, 2005

WASHINGTON - As leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee criticized Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers for submitting an incomplete questionnaire, she reported Wednesday that her Texas Bar license was suspended in 1989 because she was late paying her dues.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the committee complained that Miers failed to provide enough information on the questionnaire, which they received Tuesday. Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, called it an "insufficient response." Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat, said senators from both parties were unhappy.

"The comments I have heard range from "incomplete' to "insulting,' " Leahy said.

Miers' response to the questionnaire was 57 pages long, but Specter and Leahy said many questions were not properly answered. In a letter to her Wednesday, they asked for more information on cases she handled as a corporate lawyer and how she was suspended by the District of Columbia bar earlier this year for not paying her dues.

They also requested documents she had written while she worked at the White House and as an official with state and local bar associations. They also sought more details about whether she would recuse herself on cases involving President Bush.

The letter asked for information about efforts by the White House and its allies to get conservative groups to support her nomination. The senators said they want to know whether anyone made promises about how she might rule on particular issues.

A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said that since Miers was nominated, she has told Specter she had "years of files to go through and she would work to finish the questionnaire as soon as possible, but she would likely have to send followups to provide additional information."

The White House has said it will cooperate with the committee as much as possible but will not provide documents from executive deliberations.

Late Wednesday, Miers faxed a letter to Leahy and Specter to alert them about the one-month suspension in 1989, which she did not report in the questionnaire. It occurred while she was a corporate attorney in Dallas and two years before she became president-elect of the Texas State Bar. Earlier this year, she temporarily lost her District of Columbia law license because she did not pay her dues.

The late payments are unusual because colleagues have described Miers as a meticulous, detailed person who catches tiny mistakes in drafts of President Bush's speeches. But Jerry Clements, a lawyer with Locke Liddell & Sapp, where Miers worked, said it was "the firm's clerical error and not Ms. Miers' fault because the firm was responsible for paying the dues for all of its lawyers."

Miers, a longtime aide for President Bush, has been criticized for not having sufficient qualifications to serve on the nation's highest court. Bush has said she is well qualified and, because she has not been a judge, will bring a fresh perspective to the court.

The senators held a joint news conference Wednesday. Specter said he recognized that the hearing was less than three weeks away but that Miers had assured him she would be ready.

Leahy said Senate confirmation could be a long process.

"I don't want any of you to be nervous," he told reporters, "but my wife and I, at breakfast this morning, decided, as much as we like Thanksgiving at our farmhouse in Vermont, we are planning on having Thanksgiving in Washington."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

[Last modified October 20, 2005, 01:47:29]

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