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October 4, 2005

Nominee Miers' 1992 discussion of crime and punishment

As this post at Volokh highlights, today begins an examination of SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers' paper trail.  And, intrigued by the quotes provided in this Time Magazine sampling, I pulled up on Lexis a short commentary Miers wrote in the July 27, 1992 issue of the Texas Lawyer when she was president of the State Bar of Texas and a partner at Locke Purnell Rain Harrell.   This commentary was written in response to an angry man's courthouse shooting spree in Fort Wayne, which left two lawyers dead and two judges and a prosecutor wounded.

The commentary ran under the title "Don't Blame the Legal System for Fort Worth Rampage," and it covers considerable ground in just over 1000 words.  Because Meirs' paper trail is apparently so short, I suspect a lot of the words in this 1992 commentary will get a lot of attention.  Here is the passages from Miers' pen that especially caught my eye:

Punishment of wrongdoers should be swift and sure.  Only then can the criminal justice system serve as an effective deterrent.  Those who would choose a rule of man rather than the rule of law must not escape fitting penalty.  Again, the lack of adequate resources to support an overburdened criminal justice system looms as a reality.  Punishment may come swift and sure in the Fort Worth slayings case because of their notoriety. But we cannot forget the other cases crying for justice languishing in courts throughout Texas and the nation.

All lawyers, not just those involved in the criminal justice system, should have an interest in efforts to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system. The State Bar and the Texas Young Lawyers Association conducted 15 hearings across the state concerning pro bono issues. These hearings provided a clear picture that inadequacies exist in the resources available to provide constitutionally required indigent criminal defense.

The hearings also underscored that the lack of resources in some areas of the state not only has a dramatic impact on the courts' performance of all of their obligations, but also unduly burdens the ability of lawyers to maintain a private practice.  Lawyers must, in the interest of the administration of justice, be aggressive advocates for increasing the resources available for the representation of indigent defendants. 

Additionally, we are reminded that success in fighting crime in our nation is more than treating symptoms. We will be successful in solving our massive crime problems only when we attack the root causes. All of us, men and women, young and old, must pledge ourselves to address the ills that surround us in our communities. 

We all can be active in some way to address the social issues that foster criminal behavior, such as: lack of self-esteem or hope in some segments of our society, poverty, lack of health care (particularly mental health care), lack of education, and family dysfunction.

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October 4, 2005 at 05:22 PM | Permalink


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» Harriet Miers Writing on Criminal Justice from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Law Prof Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy found this commentary written by Harriet Miers and published in the Texas Lawyer in July, 1992. Read the whole thing, it should bring some measure of comfort to criminal defense lawyers.... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 4, 2005 7:20:50 PM


I sincerely wonder whether Miers will be an example of the "new right on sentencing" that has been mentioned before on this blog. The excerpt posted here certainly sounds reform-minded.

But this is still a very peculiar nomination. I'm flabbergasted.

Posted by: IB | Oct 4, 2005 6:24:08 PM

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