Miers Resigns As White House Counsel

Laws and LegislationCrime, Law and JusticePoliticsJustice SystemWhite HouseGovernment

Harriet Miers, President Bush's failed Supreme Court nominee and longtime adviser, on Thursday submitted her resignation as White House counsel.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the president reluctantly accepted her resignation, which takes effect Jan. 31. He said a search for a successor is under way.

Bush nominated Miers in October 2005 to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, but she dropped out under fire from conservatives who questioned her qualifications and would not support her.

Asked why she was leaving, Snow said: "Basically, she has been here six years."

He said Miers, 61, a loyal adviser to the president for years, has been having conversations with White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten about leaving for some time and both agreed that it was time for a change at the White House office of legal counsel.

At the White House, Miers is known as a diligent adviser, one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave.

"Harriet is one of the most beloved people here at the White House," Snow said, adding that she was a scrupulous lawyer who aggressively defended the Constitution.

"As somebody said earlier today, 'She put 12 years of service into six years,'" Snow said.

Snow said Miers' departure did not signal the beginning of an exodus of senior officials after six bruising years at the White House. Asked if other officials were poised to go, Snow said, "I'm aware of none and anticipate none."

As White House counsel, Miers works behind-the-scenes overseeing a team of attorneys who provide legal advice to Bush on matters large and small. But when Bush picked her to fill an opening at the Supreme Court, she became a household name, albeit briefly. Her background and every word were scrutinized. Television cameras rolled as she walked up Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers charged with confirming her as a justice.

She dropped out under fire from conservatives who criticized her for having thin credentials on constitutional law and no proven record as a judicial conservative. That forced Bush to scramble for a new Supreme Court nominee who could calm a conservative rebellion and walk sure-footedly through a Senate confirmation hearing. He turned to Samuel Alito, a federal appeals court judge from New Jersey, who was ultimately confirmed.

Ironically, one of Miers' tasks as counsel was to vet potential nominees for openings on the federal bench -- and the Supreme Court.

"Participating in the process to help identify the best nominees for the American people has been among the most rewarding of my experiences," Miers wrote Bush in a resignation letter dated Thursday. "Your commitment to nominating judges who will interpret the law and who know the proper role of a judge has made this nation stronger and our justice system fairer."

Miers, who grew up in Dallas and received her undergraduate and law degrees from Southern Methodist University, was the first woman hired by her law firm, in 1972; first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association, in 1985; first woman president of the Texas bar, in 1992; and first woman president of her law firm, in 1996.

The soft-spoken Miers has described herself as a "Texan through and through." White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove said she can be "tough as nails." Bush once called her "a pit bull in size 6 shoes."

She clerked for a federal judge there and then joined Locke Purnell Rain Harrell, rising to become its first female president. After the firm merged with another, she was co-managing partner of the 400-lawyer Locke Liddell & Sapp.

She was Bush's personal lawyer in Texas, took on the thankless job of cleaning up the Texas Lottery when he was governor, and followed him to Washington to serve as staff secretary until Bush appointed her White House counsel, succeeding Alberto Gonzales when he was named attorney general.

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