Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Will Piece: Flyer (and, as he noted, lots of others) excerpts the George Will dismissal of Harriet Miers. Like I said, I'm getting shakier by the moment on her. But I read Will's piece and found it a lot less devastating than most. In fact, I found it fussy, elitist, and easily dismissed. I had planned, in fact, to dismiss it. Then I read Steve's take, and figured I didn't need to say much.
George Will may not realize that many lawyers interpret the Constitution every week. It's not a dusty old document no one pays any attention to in real-world practice. It's extremely handy for beating people with otherwise good cases. Criminal lawyers use it to get rid of compelling evidence. I've used it in employment cases to get rid of people my clients shafted. The Constitution is highly useful to ordinary real-world lawyers, and we are perfectly capable of understanding it.

I don't know what George Will's real beef is, but he is beyond wrong on this one. He ought to retract his ridiculous argument before it becomes a source of embarrassment.

I'm not a lawyer. I was, for a time, a humble paralegal in a small practice. In the summer, when the law school clerks would show up, the partner I worked (mainly) for used to test them against me at a variety of research and writing tasks, along with grunt work like title searches, tax lien searches, and process service (which the clerks always thought was below them). They always lost, after which he'd call them into his office and give them his talk, which usually went something like this: "Look at this jerk-off who just kicked your ass. He's never seen a moment of law school, he's wearing socks that don't match, he probably had three drinks at lunch, and has likely spent the better part of the afternoon surfing internet porn on the firm's T-1 line. And you've spent a year at G-town Law. You should be ashamed."

The partner had been a f*ck up himself, barely got out of college, ended up in a very small law school. Naturally, he took a liking to me. But he was smart. He knew that "the law" consisted mainly of shit you could look up if you needed to. He preferred to have me, the uneducated paralegal, do his research because I hadn't been to law school. Honestly, I was a more creative thinker than any of the DC-law-school brats that clerked there. That was of more value to him.

It's possible that Bush feels this way about Miers. (Like I said, I have my doubts.) I'm curious to see how she handles herself at the hearings. If she's a sharp thinker, who cares if she's never been on the bench? (Smart people can figure out just about any job on the planet.) Honestly, the average auto mechanic needs to keep a lot more relevant technical information in his head than the average judge. Not just more but more complicated information, in fact. Lawyers like to think of themselves like scientists or surgeons, practitioners of a complicated and esoteric body of skill and knowledge. The fact is, if they'd drop the silly Latin crap, a smart high schooler could practice law pretty successfully. I think that it chaps their ass to see someone like Miers get the nod. I mean, what have you been hearing? Didn't write for law review. Didn't go to a top school. Law practice was not at a top-tier firm.

F*ck it. We'll see how qualified she is, but most of this noise is BS. Honestly, it's just not that hard a job, as evidenced by some of the poorly reasoned opinions that flow from the court with alarming regularity.

More: I'm also reading in various places that, to paraphrase, "even if Miers is conservative, there are plenty other conservatives with judicial experience who would be better nominees." But nobody gives any names, so I dismiss it as posturing. Honestly, with the current climate in the Senate, who can you pick that doesn't have a paper trail? I think a lot of the GOP, as I said before, just wants Bush to stick it to the Judiciary Committee, and to the Senate, on principle and make them filibuster. It's dumb.


Flyer said...

Well, chuck it all, then. I'll take the job.

I agree that Will is being a tad elitist, but I also read Steve's post and I don't agree with him entirely either. Yeah, i think lawyers get too much credit for being smart and you could probably train a chimp, or program a computer, to do half the work of your average attorney. But I don't think you can compare Antonin Scalia with some ambulance chasing hack. Maybe he's an exception (my guess is that a great justice comes along about as often as a great golfer - once every generation or so) but there will be other talented an smart people pushing and prodding a justice to vote "their way." I'd like to know what Miers uses as her legal backbone - for lack of a better phrase - when they push really hard.

Maybe you don't need to be a genius to be a lawyer, but smart, tough and principled are qualities needed to be an effective SC Justice. If she shows those in committee hearings, she'll, rightly, be confirmed.

Razor said...

George Will -- elitist??? The hell you say!!

There is something refreshing about having a non-egghead on the bench. All to often we lawyers lament how the bench seems to forget what it was like to be a practicing stiff -- having all those looming deadlines, recalcitrant opponents, and of course, lying clients.

But for the Supreme Court, well, there's very little of the workaday lawyer that relates to that job. The vast majority of lawyers never argue there, and if you sit on The Bench, all you do is ruminate and ponder before handing down decisions like Zeus did lightning bolts.

She may be great, she may not. That can be said about any nominee, even one with the most lofty background.

My beef remains: lazy. What's next? W's long-time golf-club cleaner for head of FEMA...oh wait...