Miers Questionnaire, Take II

In a lengthy post early this morning, I argued that, although I still think Harriet Miers unqualified for the Supreme Court, the flap over her answers to the Senate questionnaire was “silly.”

Now that I have seen the questionnaire (in PDF format at NRO via Michelle Malkin) and not just a couple of excerpts from the papers, I rescind the second part of my analysis.

Malkin notes,

The blogosphere has brutally dissected Miers’ answers, non-answers, and unintelligible gibberish. See, for example, Steve Bainbridge, Prawfsblawg, Victor Fleischer, James Lindgren, Patterico, and Bench Memos.

Patterico’s is especially pithy:

As the poster notes, everyone makes mistakes. But honest to God, I think I read over my blog posts more thoroughly than she read over her answers to this questionnaire. And my blog posts are, after all, only blog posts — not my answers to a questionnaire about my qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice. Wouldn’t you want to give a document like that a quick little glance before submitting it?

Scott Ott provides a fake-but-true example:

Q: 27.a. Please describe your experience in the entire judicial selection process, from beginning to end (including the circumstances which led to your nomination).

MIERS: “When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor first announced her desire to retire, I immediately recognized that the court would need a sweet, elderly female of indeterminate judicial philosophy, but I never dreamed that that mysterious ingenue could be me.

The New York Times editorial board offers a rather brutal assessment:

The Trouble With Harriet (NYT)

When President Bush first nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, many people who were worried about her positions on hot-button issues cloaked that concern with talk about her credentials. But as time went on, it became increasingly clear that ideology aside, the qualification question looms large. So far this nominee has yet to demonstrate that she can even satisfactorily fill out a questionnaire about her attitude toward important constitutional questions. This page has urged that Ms. Miers be given a fair chance to prove that she is worthy of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. But based on the evidence so far, it is getting hard to believe that she is.


Ms. Miers had an opportunity to win over the skeptics this week with her answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questionnaire. But her responses were so unimpressive that the top Republican and Democrat on that committee took the extraordinary step yesterday of instructing her to give it another try, this time with more “particularity and precision.” She thus became perhaps the most important judicial nominee in history to be offered what amounts to a do-over on a take-home quiz.


Bob Novak notes in his column today that the only reason Miers has any chance at confirmation at all is Republican Senators being loathe to hand another defeat to an embattled president.

President Bush’s agents have convinced conservative Republican senators heartsick over his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court that they must support her to save his presidency. But that does not guarantee her confirmation. Ahead are hearings of unspeakable ugliness that can be prevented only if Democratic senators exercise unaccustomed restraint.

Bush would be far better off convincing Miers to withdraw her nomination under the fig leaf of presidential lament.

As a side note, I still maintain my position that the nature of these questionnaires is not all that conducive to getting meaningful information. Indeed, even in this case, almost all of it amounts to an extensive regurgitation of Miers’ résumé and listing of information that could be presented to the committee without the burden of the questionnaire format. It is not until page 53 of the 57 page document that we get to any substantive questions.

Of course, the fact that she only spent 3-1/2 pages answering the substantive questions is, to put it mildly, less than impressive. Indeed, her answers amount to a regurgitation of the first few days of an undergraduate ConLaw course.

Update: Steven Taylor provides the Roberts questionnaire for comparison. In a separate post, he adds

[Stephen Bainbridge notes] that “the single most important and consequential (both for herself and the country) piece of legal writing she has done to date” is this questionnaire. If that fact (and I do think it is an accurate statement) doesn’t underscore her lack of qualifications for this position, then I don’t know what can.


Update: Taylor has done more digging and found a collection of questionnaires and other historic documents related to nominees going back to Rehnquist.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Details, Details

    Matthew Scully wrote of SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers that:… Harriet Miers, in everything she does, gives high attention to detail. And the trait came in handy with drafts of presidential speeches, in which she routinely exposed weak arguments, bogus …

  2. The Questionnaire

    NRO has the HEM Questionnaire with answers[PDF] available for your reading pleasure.
    A perusal of the answers results in the following issues of note:

    The bulk of her publication record consists, by far, of various short columns written during her …

  3. The Travails of Miers Continue

    Via the NYT: Supreme Court Nominee Is Asked to Redo Response to Questions
    The Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers suffered another setback on Wednesday when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her to…

  4. How do you flunk the take home exam?

    Outside the Beltway has an informative round up and lots of links to reaction on SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers' answers to the Senate questionaire. Looks like the Judiciary committee looked at it and told her, "do over!" And next time, an…

  5. Myopic Zeal says:

    “Proportional Representation Requirement of the Equal Protection Clause”?

    Harriet Miers’ responses to the Senate questionaire are being parsed and torn apart. After seeing this, I would be really surprised if she makes it through the confirmation hearings, but I’ve been surprised before with politics (such as w…

  6. Senate Democrats Meet Nominee Miers

    Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers met with Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats Monday. Hearings o

  7. Ouch. This fence-sitter just got his arse poked by a major splinter. Great if disturbing rundown, James.

  8. dougrc says:

    I did particularly enjoy reading her answers for questions b & c under topic “27. Selection Process:”. I never knew a lawyer and politician could be so precise or so expressive using less than a handful of letters.

  9. Donkey Stomp says:

    Will Miers Make it To Hearings?

    Harriet Miers has frustrated officials in Washington with an incomplete questionnaire. According to the Washington Post (hat tip: Michelle Malkin): Barely concealing their irritation during a 35-minute news conference at the Capitol, Chairman Arlen Spe…

  10. This Fence Sitter Just Got Stuck

    …by a big ol’ splinter, right in the arse. Regarding the Harriet Miers questionnaire, James Joyner has a valuable rundown of blogosphere and media gab. Visit Outside the Beltway for more. Some closing observations:
    As I side note, I sti…

  11. DL says:

    If she responds in the committee hearings with this level of attention and skill, even Teddy and Chuck will become encouraged to grill her.

    Miss Miers;

    “Have you ever Jaywalked?”
    “Has any vehicle you have been the driver of, at any time veered over to touch the yellow line?”
    “Have you ever copied anything on a copier at the office, without first obtaining the copyright?”
    “Please list the following 25 reasons you feel that caused you to leave the Democratic Pary?”
    “Have you ever enjoyed scotch or Scottish law?”
    “Have you ever referred to French fries as Freedom fries?”
    “Have you ever carried your bible and a copy of the Constitution with you at the same time in violation of settled law regarding separation of Church and State?”
    Spell penumbra, and please use it in a sentence!

  12. QandO says:

    Miers, in her Own Words…Unfortunately

    Harriet Miers’ questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee has been released. It’s a marvelous little document.

  13. Its Time For This Nightmare to End

    From today’s Washington Times, comes the news that the White House is pulling the plug on the nominee’s meetings with Senators despite the fact that she has only met with about 1/4 of the men and women who will be voting on her nomination