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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)

Two years before Miers became the president, the state bar had decided to remedy that situation by setting aside four board of directors seats for women and minorities. Those members are appointed by the president but have the same voting privileges as those who ran for office.

The policy, which is still in place today, came up for discussion during Miers's presidency, board minutes show. The board made minor changes, but kept the preferences intact.

Dunn, Parsons and others said that Miers was strongly supportive of the policy. Parsons said this stance was not especially controversial because the bar's leadership was in agreement that "something had to be done."

Walter Sutton, a black lawyer Miers named to one of the four slots during her tenure, said she was "passionate" about the program.

"I know that she supported it without reservation," said Sutton, who first got to know Miers when she ran for the Dallas City Council in 1989 and went on to serve in the Clinton administration. He is now associate general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "I remember she called me and she was very excited -- she said, 'Walter, this is something you have to do.' "

Even today, some large states such as Florida have no such set-asides to ensure diversity. Martha Barnett, former president of the American Bar Association and a Miers enthusiast, said that the Texas policy was "very progressive, then and now, especially because to some degree there's been a backlash against things like that."

Martin Redish, a professor of constitutional law at the Northwestern University School of Law, said Miers's actions a decade ago, while not definitive, are telling.

"While it is by no means clear how she would vote, it sounds as though she would be amenable to the use of, if not quotas, racial preferences," as a way to achieve diversity, he said.

Moreno reported from Austin.


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