10/28/05 — A sullied process: The quest for dirt deters good public servants

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A sullied process: The quest for dirt deters good public servants

There has been plenty of discussion concerning Harriet Miers and her qualifications to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

And some of the discussion has been, to put it mildly, less than polite.

So, it is not surprising that after about a month of listening to talking heads slam her credentials and question her capability that Mrs. Miers has decided to go back to work as White House counsel and leave the nomination process to someone else.

Mrs. Miers is no slouch. She has earned a reputation as a highly qualified and learned person who is a first-class lawyer and a scholar.

She has no judicial experience, but she did not just finish her college education either.

She has had a career, and a distinguished one at that.

Serving as a justice on the Supreme Court is a serious and important job with a responsibility that could affect the lives of millions of Americans, so it is not out of bounds for someone to look closely at the candidate who is offering him or herself up as a possible choice for the job.

The problem is that becoming nominated for a position on the highest court in the nation is almost a guarantee that you are going to spend the next few weeks listening to people who really don’t know you draw conclusions about your honor, character and integrity.

It is no wonder that few people really want to put themselves or their families through the process. After all, you go from the pride in telling your family that someone thought enough of you to nominate you to the High Court, only to spend the next few weeks doing damage control after your name is dragged through the mud.

Serving in public office is often a thankless job, but the only task more difficult than actually doing the work is enduring the nomination process.

If we are serious about attracting quality people to lead our Justice System and our government, perhaps it is time to tone down the attitude with which we examine their credentials. It seems that most of the time, the object is to find dirt, or the perception of dirt, as quickly as possible. That determination might just be keeping a few people from even lifting their hands to volunteer — and that can’t be good for the integrity of the court or the future of this country.

Published in Editorials on October 28, 2005 10:11 AM