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Quiet but Ambitious White House Counsel Makes Life of Law

Harriet Miers, a longtime confidante of President Bush,
Harriet Miers, a longtime confidante of President Bush, "is defined by hard work, dedication and client loyalty," says a partner at a Texas firm where Miers was a co-managing partner before coming to Washington. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

"There's no vacancy, so I don't think it is appropriate to talk about it," she said when the question of the Supreme Court vetting process arose.

The office also has played a pivotal role in recommending federal appeals court candidates to Bush. Senate Democrats blocked 10 of the president's 34 appeals court nominees during his first term, saying they were too extreme in their conservatism. That prompted Senate Republicans to threaten to change the rules to disallow filibusters of judicial candidates.

The march toward the so-called nuclear option was stopped only after a bipartisan agreement by 14 senators saved the filibuster but allowed some of Bush's most controversial nominees to win Senate confirmation. The deal provides for the filibuster to be used only under "extraordinary circumstances," while calling on the White House to consult more closely with the Senate before forwarding nominees.

But Bush has said that the White House is not part of the agreement, a view Miers echoes.

"It doesn't change what we do," said Miers, who said she routinely talks to senators about possible nominees. The candidates the president put forward, she said, "deserve an up-or-down vote."

Born and raised in Dallas, Miers, 59, is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, where she majored in mathematics. She went on to law school at SMU, earning her law degree in 1970 and going on to clerk for a federal judge in Dallas. In an era when there were few female lawyers, Miers set out for the top.

According to published reports, she was the first woman hired by Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely, a Dallas firm whose history extends to the 1890s. She went on to become a top commercial litigator whose clients included Microsoft and the Walt Disney Co.

Miers, who is not married and does not have children, was active in professional organizations and eventually was elected head of the Dallas and Texas bar associations, where she was known for encouraging members to do pro bono work.

If Miers encountered any gender bias along the way, she is not one to talk about it. "She is one of those people who just decides, 'I'm going to do a good job and good work and good results will win out over any biases people may have,' " said Clements, a fellow female lawyer who regards Miers as a trailblazer. "She just overcame any obstacles with hard work and dedication and being a very good trial lawyer."

Miers met Bush in the 1980s, and was drafted to work as counsel for his 1994 gubernatorial campaign. In 1995, he appointed her to the Texas Lottery Commission. After working as a lawyer in Bush's presidential campaign, she came to Washington with him in 2001.

"I remember seeing him in her office many years ago, before he was governor, before he was running for anything," Clements said. "So it's been a long relationship and a very loyal relationship. She really is one of those people that the practice of law and all things associated with that really has been her life."

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