Posted on October 10, 2005

Miers Backed Minority Power, Aid

Stephen Henderson, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 7

WASHINGTON — In what appear to be some of her only public statements about a constitutional issue, Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers testified in a 1990 voting rights lawsuit that the Dallas City Council had too few black and Hispanic members, and that increasing minority representation should be a goal of any change in the city’s political structure.

In the same testimony, Miers, then a member of the council, said she believed the city should divest its South African financial holdings and work to boost economic development in poor and minority areas.

Miers’ thoughts about racial diversity placed her squarely on the progressive side of the 1990 suit, which was pivotal in shifting power in Dallas politics to groups outside the traditional, mostly white establishment.

Some constitutional scholars say that if Miers were to embrace the same views as a high court justice, she would fall more in line with the court’s pragmatic, moderate wing than with its doctrinaire extremes.

“There’s an acknowledgement in her comments that race matters and is relevant, and from a fairness standpoint, we should acknowledge the impact of a particular political structure on voters of color,” said George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton, a voting rights expert. “It’s not unlike something you could see Justice Sandra Day O’Connor saying. A rigid quota system may be bad, but diversity is a compelling interest, and we want institutions to reflect society as a whole.”

That notion may not be helpful to Miers’ support among conservatives in Washington and elsewhere, who have expressed deep disappointment — and in some cases outrage — that President Bush did not choose a solidly conservative nominee to replace O’Connor, a swing vote on many issues.