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Miers Backed Race, Sex Set-Asides

Harriet Miers sits for a 1992 interview as state bar president, where she sought to boost female and minority lawyers.
Harriet Miers sits for a 1992 interview as state bar president, where she sought to boost female and minority lawyers. (State Bar Of Texas Via Associated Press)

Others see it differently.

"Those are quotas," said Roger Clegg, the general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative group opposed to affirmative action. The fact that Miers "did not create the quota systems but only perpetuated and endorsed it doesn't make it less disturbing," he said.

The person who was the primary mover behind the policy that set hiring goals for law firms was Gonzales, who at the time served on the state bar board with Miers. Back then, minority lawyers made up fewer than 5 percent of the associates at the state's 18 largest law firms, according to board records.

The resolution called on firms to increase the number of minority lawyers by setting a goal that 10 percent of all newly hired associates over the next five years be minorities, provided that they met the firm's hiring standards.

At the June 24, 1992, meeting at which it passed, Miers was just finishing her 1991-1992 term as president-elect, the number-two position among state bar board members, and was about to begin her year-long presidential term. Bob Dunn, who was president at the time, said that as president-elect, Miers served on the executive committee, where the matter was brought up before its adoption by the full board.

He said the committee agreed that Texas demographics were changing, and law practices needed to keep up.

"There wasn't a single member who expressed concern, and Harriet was certainly one of the leaders" in supporting the policy, he said. "It wasn't a hard sell at all, and I think we made a lot of headway because of it from the standpoint of inclusion."

At the full board meeting, a stand-in for Gonzales stressed to Miers and others that the policy was "aspirational," and "not a quota by any means." Gonzales, whose spokeswoman declined the opportunity to comment, would later call it a "concrete goal" firms should meet in an update to the board six months later.

John Yoo, a conservative law professor at University of California at Berkeley who served as deputy assistant attorney general during President Bush's first term, said the fact that Miers did not object to the policy "is another worrying sign that her real views on the kind of issues she'll decide on the Supreme Court are not as conservative as President Bush suggests."

"When you start setting numbers like that, you can call it a goal or anything else, but it smells like a quota," he said. "The message is pretty clear -- you are encouraging hiring based on race."

Bush has said he opposes quotas, and in a major 2003 Supreme Court case on affirmative action, his administration argued against race-based admissions policies at the University of Michigan. But the administration, led by Gonzales, disappointed conservatives by pressing a narrow argument that objected only to the way in which Michigan had pursued diversity, not to the diversity rationale for affirmative action itself.

In Texas, the bar association employed affirmative action methods similar to those that conservatives found objectionable in the Michigan case. Most bar members, including Miers, are elected to the state bar's board after serving in elected positions on their local bars. But the system was a "good ol' boys network" that had resulted in a lack of representation by women and minorities at the state leadership level, according to Dunn.

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