Miers' withdrawal a rarity, political scientist says

Friday, October 28, 2005

Harriet Miers' withdrawal on Thursday, Oct. 27, of her nomination to the Supreme Court is a "rare case of withdrawal for purely political reasons," according to a University of North Texas political scientist.

Dr. Corey Ditslear, associate professor of political science, says that in her letter to President Bush requesting her withdrawal, Miers claimed to be concerned about document requests from the White House Counsel's Office that raise separation of powers issues, "but all requests thus far have acknowledged the need for executive privilege and have sought only to learn the types of issues she was charged with investigating, not the content of the advice."

"The real reason for appears to be an attempt to save the president continued political embarrassment when his polling numbers are down," Ditslear says. "A Senate meeting last night convinced those involved that Miers was in for a very tough fight and a possible rejection."

He points out that 10 others have previously withdrawn their nominations to the Supreme Court -- usually for health issues or a scandal.

He adds that if Bush can nominate a replacement for Miers sometime next week -- "something that may be difficult as the expectation that he consult with key Senate Republicans has been heightened" -- the Senate would be unable to schedule confirmation hearings for the nominee until mid-December or even early January.

With the Supreme Court almost four weeks into this year's term, Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Miers was to replace, will stay on the Court longer than expected. O'Connor, Distlear says, "once again becomes a swing vote on a number of key cases currently before the Court."

"She has heard oral arguments and will now be given the opportunity to vote on cases involving parental consent for abortion and state control of euthanasia, as well as many other issues. The Court dynamic has unexpectedly changed for the next two to three months," he says. "Miers' withdrawal saves the president potential embarrassment, but likely extends Justice O'Connor's influence into 2006."

Ditslear teaches courses on judicial politics, international law and human rights, Supreme Court decision making, women and politics and constitutional law focusing on civil rights and civil liberties and government powers. He was a legal intern for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Anti-Trust Subcommittee, in the summer of 1994, preparing the committee's statements and questions on then-Supreme Court nominee Stephen Breyer and witnessing the confirmation hearings. He has published research on the Supreme Court in Vanderbilt Law Review, Journal of Politics, and Law and Society Review. His full biographical information is available at www.psci.unt.edu/Ditslear/cvuntmaster.pdf.

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