Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Harriet, Meet Byron and Robert

There has been some fussing in the media over the fact that Harriet Miers has never been a judge, has spent her career as a corporate attorney and is a personal friend of the President. Does any of that sound familiar?

Think Byron White.

During World War II, Byron White was an officer in naval intelligence, serving most of his duty in the South Pacific. White then formed a friendship with another young officer named John F. Kennedy.

Following the war White returned to Yale Law School. After a successful career as a corporation lawyer, White entered politics in 1960, heading a Kennedy movement that helped the soon-to-be president win Colorado. Kennedy later appointed his "crony" White as deputy attorney general.

White never served on the judiciary. Then, on March 30, 1962, President Kennedy appointed Byron White associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at age 44. He served for 31 years, retired in March 1993 and in most quarters is thought to have done a very good job.

Or think Robert Jackson.

Robert Jackson never earned a law degree. He was admitted to the bar in 1913 after a brief period of study at Albany law school. In 1934, he was appointed general counsel of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. From 1936 to 1938 he served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the antitrust division. Jackson then became (1938) Solicitor General and, in 1940, U.S. Attorney General. Imagine - a 20th Century Solicitor General and Attorney General of the United States who didn't even have a law degree! Cronyism run amok! Jackson, too, never held judicial office until 1941 - when his crony Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to the Supreme Court - and he didn't even have a law degree! Justice Jackson is widely thought to be one of the best justices who ever occupied that bench.


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