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Court in the Act
13 October, 2005  
A study in contrasts

Harriet Miers and Susan Crennan – both nominated to go to their countries’ highest courts and both reliably conservative. At least Little Johnnie doesn’t have to get out and “sell” Crennan’s credentials, whereas Dubya’s up to his armpits in a “Harry” Miers’ marketing blitz

imageWith every passing day Dubya’s nominee for the Supreme Court seems more and more my sort of gal.

“Harry” Miers is wild with the eyeliner, she goes out to Crawford and clears brush with Bush, she was co-managing partner of a Dallas law shop called Locke Liddell & Sapp, she eats lunch at her desk, she absolutely believes everything in the Bible, she owned a gun and she has a clean slate when it comes to any sort of jurisprudence.

Further, she was as bright as a button when she ran the Texas Lottery Commission although sadly we note this little entry on her record from Wikipedia, under government service:

“Her tenure [at the Lottery Commission] has also been criticized, however. In 1997, the commission under Miers hired Lawrence Littwin as executive director, but then fired him five months later. At the time, the contract to operate the lottery was held by the politically-connected GTech, which had obtained the contract with the help of a former Lieutenant Governor of Texas (Democrat Ben Barnes). Littwin, as director, began an investigation into whether GTech had made illegal campaign contributions and whether GTech owed the commission millions of dollars for breaches of its contract. He stated that Miers ordered him to stop the investigation. He brought a lawsuit alleging that he was fired in retaliation for the investigation and to ensure that GTech would keep its contract. According to Texans for Public Justice, GTech paid Littwin $300,000 to settle the suit.”

Dubya says, “She’s plenty bright” and according to former Bush aide David Frum, “Harry” thinks Dubya is “the most brilliant man I have ever met”.

Dick Cheney told Rush Limbaugh, “You’ll be proud of Harriet’s record. Trust me”.

Bush too has asked everyone to “trust” his judgment. To shore up conservative support from this lame looking nominee Bush came out with the following assurance:

“I’ve known her long enough to know she’s not going to change, that 20 years from now she will be the same person with the some judicial philosophy she has today… She’ll have more experience. She’ll have been a judge, but nevertheless the philosophy won’t change, and that’s important to me.”

What more do you want?

Andrew Sullivan writing in The Sunday Times said that Harriet Miers has been “essentially an indentured servant to the Bush family”.

In Australian terms it might be equivalent to appointing to the High Court the managing partner of a largish Brisbane law firm who had made the additional significant sacrifice of frantically sucking-up to Little Johnnie Howard and then getting a job on his staff in Canberra. It would be unthinkable.

imageThe contrast with the announcement of Susan Crennan’s forthcoming elevation to the High Court could not be starker.

Whereas Miers has to go into the stocks and have rotten tomatoes hurled at her by senators, the publicity shy Crennan will just glide into place on November 1, her temperament unruffled.

Crennan’s career can saunter along quite unmolested by any public examination. Maybe we know as much about Crennan’s jurisprudence as the Americans know about Miers’. It’s just that in America the investigative process is more rigorous.

In Australia, the High Court candidate has given no interviews and has not even sat for a photo shoot since Fabulous Phil Ruddock announced her appointment. She was on leave at the time the announcement was made and there’s hasn’t been a squeak out of her since.

In the 18 months she was on the Federal Court she never gave an interview. In fact, in all the time she has held various offices the only interview that we can discover was with The Age over ten years ago at the time she was “chairman” of the Victorian Bar n’ Lounge, and where she played a regular straight bat.

She’s elusive and opaque.

More recent additional information to hand is that the government’s appointment of Crennan was surprisingly rapid. She was sounded out in the week before the announcement and was formally offered the post on the eve of the announcement.

She must have been up-to-speed with her Federal Court docket to have been able to accept and clear the decks in time for November 1.

The indignity of the process that the Americans heap on their senior judicial nominees is such that someone of Crennan’s remote disposition would be unlikely to accept a Supreme Court job.

Our system is by no means perfect but at least we are spared the awfulness of judges’ credentials having to be “sold” in order to get the poor sods across the line. Nor do they have to be prodded for the views on abortion, gay rights, the national anthem at morning tea, etc.

Unlike Dubya, Little Johnnie hasn’t had to reassure his conservative base that Crennan is rock solid, will never waiver, will do the right thing trust me.

imageEach day the American media is just full of stuff about Harriet Miers (seen here in 1963). The Texas Lottery Commission even has released her papers from the period she was “chairman”. Laura Bush was on the Today show suggesting that to oppose Harriet’s appointment was sexist.

On Wednesday (Oct 12) W was talking-up Harry’s religious credentials, saying:

“People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers. They want to know Harriet Miers’ background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers’ life is her religion.”

Here on the Media Monitors’ index there was very little interest in Crennan. Of all the issues in the week her appointment was announced she rated the lowest in terms of media mentions and public discussion. Three weeks later The Weekend Australian come up with some angles about her early life in housing commission Heidelberg West, old class photos from Our Lady of Mercy, and interviews from neighbours who seemed only too keen to blab about “the lovely Walsh family”.

The newspaper also commissioned a study from James McConvill at Deakin University who arrived at the startling finding that on migration and refugee cases as a Federal Court judge Crennan “rarely ruled against the government”.

Fabulous Phil got all hung-up about the gender issue and kept banging on at his press conference on September 20 about how able she was, how she stood out in a very talented field, and that he never appoints on the basis of gender.

The truth is that Crennan is one of those very careful, never-put-a-foot-wrong, career-conscious cookies who, while able, is no more able than a dozen others who could do the job with equal, or maybe greater, distinction.

So there must have been some other “it” factor that lured Fabulous and Johnnie. Knowing that this government is largely comprised of bloodless brutes, pounds to peanuts Susan Crennan was regarded as a more consistent conservative than, say, Susan Kiefel.

Personally, I think that out of the two women Howard thought Crennan had more impressive eyebrows.