Springfield State Journal Register

October 07, 2005

Durbin wants to know more about Miers
Senator: 'She has the burden of proof'


WASHINGTON - Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., emerged Thursday from a private meeting with Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, saying she will have to be more open to discussing her beliefs and background because she has less of paper trail than many previous nominees.

"I believe she has the burden of proof. She is asking for a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land," said Durbin, who is assistant Democratic leader and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I believe she has to come forward to the committee and, more importantly, to the American people to talk about what she believes and what her background is ..."

President Bush nominated Miers, his White House counsel who has never served as a judge, to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a swing vote on issues including abortion and affirmative action.

"I don't think you have to be a judge to go to the Supreme Court," Durbin said. "But a judge has opinions, articles they've written. ... The volume of evidence that we have to deal with is very limited, and if it's not coming from the White House, it's going to be somewhat dated."

Durbin voted against Bush's other recent nominee, John Roberts, who was confirmed and now sits as chief justice, because he said Roberts failed to answer many of the senator's questions.

But the committee had 80,000 pages of documents written by Roberts that members could study. With limited documents for Miers, "she is going to have to be more forthcoming than Judge Roberts to really tell us about who she is and what she believes," he said.

In their 45-minute meeting, Durbin said he covered a wide range of topics, but that he learned little about Miers' thoughts on the issues.

"There were limitations about what she could say," Durbin said.

He said he asked about two or three major decisions that were made in the White House since she's been there, and in both instances, she said she couldn't comment on what her role was.

Her supporters say her experience in the White House is what qualifies her for the Supreme Court, Durbin said.

"She's been at the highest levels of policy-making in our government," he said.

"But if that is the fact, then we need some more information about what she did at the highest levels of our government."

He also said her White House position raises the question of whether she will have to recuse herself from cases that involve decisions made by the White House while she worked there.

In addition, Durbin said he's curious what information James Dobson, founder of the Christian group Focus on the Family, has from the White House that won his support, while other conservatives are questioning the appointment.