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Nominee courts support from senators

Lack of judicial record prompts cautious reaction to Bush pick




Supreme Court
John Roberts

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers Monday paid courtesy calls to senators who will decide her confirmation, while her lack of experience as a judge prompted a cautious reaction from conservatives and liberals.

"I do look forward to the process here in the Senate," she said after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican.

Frist said he hoped to have a vote on Miers' nomination by Thanksgiving.

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said he could not commit to a timetable "until the committee sees more about what the scope of the job is." (Watch: Miers has no judicial experience -- 2:30)

"Thoroughness would be the objective, as opposed to meeting any timetable," Specter said.

After a month of scouring the federal judiciary and consulting senators to find a credible and confirmable replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, President Bush reached into his inner circle and picked his White House counsel -- a woman he once famously described as "a pit bull in size 6 shoes."

O'Connor will continue to serve on the high court until her successor is confirmed.

"I've known Harriet for more than a decade. I know her heart," Bush said of his fellow Texan, whose nomination took Washington by surprise. "I'm confident that Harriet Miers will add to the wisdom and character of the judiciary."

Miers, 60, was involved as White House counsel in vetting Supreme Court candidates for the president. She said she was "humbled" by Bush's decision to nominate her.

If confirmed, she will be just the third woman in history to serve on the high court. She will also be the only Supreme Court justice currently sitting with no previous experience as a judge.

"I will have a tremendous responsibility to keep our judicial system strong to help ensure that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply the laws and the Constitution," she said.

Despite a distinguished career as a corporate attorney in Dallas before coming to Washington with Bush in 2001, Miers has never been a judge, leaving few clues to suggest how she might rule on hot-button issues. (Case list)

Judicial experience is not required for a Supreme Court appointment; the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist had also never served on the bench before his appointment in 1971.

The president expressed confidence that Miers would "strictly interpret" the Constitution and "not legislate from the bench." (Watch Bush nominate Miers to the Supreme Court -- 9:09)

But some conservative legal activists hoped Bush would nominate an outspoken conservative to replace O'Connor, a moderate swing vote on the court. (Full story on reaction | Watch senators react to Miers' nomination -- 3:49)

Mark Moller of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, accused Bush of choosing a "sphinx-like presidential pal" in the face of declining poll numbers, instead of opting for a more controversial pick whose views were well known.

A senior White House official said it was ironic conservatives were not happy with Miers, given that she was the administration official in charge of making sure the president nominated judges who could pass conservative muster.

The immediate reaction of Senate Democrats to the Miers nomination was generally one of caution.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised her when they appeared together, calling her a "very fine lawyer."

He said he was not bothered by her lack of judicial experience, which he said would "bring a different and useful perspective to the court."

Miers, who has never married, has a reputation for being very private. In Dallas, she was a member of the Valley View Christian Church, a conservative evangelical congregation.

Unlike most justices on the high court, Miers has no Ivy League pedigree -- her undergraduate and law degrees are from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She went on to become the first woman president of both the Dallas and Texas bar associations.

From 1989 to 1991, she was a member of the Dallas City Council -- political experience that would be unique among the sitting justices. (Profile)

While serving on the council, Miers gave $150 to Texans for Life, an anti-abortion rights group. But Kyleen Wright, the group's current president, said she is "not convinced" Miers is a committed opponent of abortion rights.

Bush announced his nomination just 75 minutes before Chief Justice John Roberts took his place in the court's center seat after winning confirmation last week to replace Rehnquist.

Miers' service in Washington could prompt a renewal of the dispute over the release of legal documents that cropped up during Roberts' confirmation.

CNN's Dana Bash, Delia Gallagher, Bill Mears and Robert Yoon contributed to this report.

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