Dynamist Blog

"A Lawyer's Lawyer," or Miers-Briggs Constitutionalism

He's Mr. Super-Resume. She's Ms. Bush Crony. But aside from good manners, John Roberts and Harriet Miers actually seem to have a lot in common. Each tends to be described as a "lawyer's lawyer," which means, as far as this non-lawyer can tell, someone who pays excruciating attention to the particulars of a case, without a big picture view of jurisprudence. In other words, not a Law Professor's Lawyer. As this Legal Times profile of Miers put it:

She has also earned a reputation as exacting, detail-oriented, and meticulous -- to a fault, her critics say.

"She can't separate the forest from the trees," says one former White House staffer.

But Miers' supporters say her emphasis on detail and procedure are exactly what the Office of the White House Counsel requires.

"She is very thorough and very hard-working and very conscientious and very careful, which is why she was a good choice for staff secretary and why she's a good choice as counsel," notes Brett Kavanaugh, a former White House associate counsel who replaced Miers as staff secretary in the summer of 2003....

Her critics say the problem goes beyond what Miers does or doesn't know about policy -- and right back to a near-obsession with detail and process.

"There's a stalemate there," says one person familiar with the chief of staff's office. "The process can't move forward because you have to get every conceivable piece of background before you can move onto the next level. People are talking about a focus on process that is so intense it gets in the way of substance."...

"In my view, she's a lawyer's lawyer [who] grasps facts very quickly, in terms of sizing up a situation," says James Francis, who was chairman of Bush's 1994 gubernatorial campaign and suggested that Miers become campaign counsel.

"She doesn't make careless mistakes and doesn't tolerate careless mistakes in others," adds Francis, who runs his own investment company.

Based on this rather limited sample, I'd say that if you want to be a Bush appointee to the Supreme Court, you've got to be someone other people call "smart," but absolutely, positively not an intellectual--not a systematizer, not a pattern finder, not a theorist, not someone who sees the forest, not, in other words, a person your critics could possibly call an "ideologue." With a nod toward human resources lingo, we can call it the Miers-Briggs Test: Only "S"'s need apply.

Link to National Law Journal via D Magazine's FrontBurner, which is covering the Dallas angle on Miers.

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