In 2005, President Bush nominated his White House lawyer Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Five years later, President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Neither has ever been a judge, however there is no question that Kagan has the more impressive credentials.
However, some Republicans see it differently. Here are some quotes, from then and now:
John Cornyn (R-TX) NRSC Chairman.
One reason I felt so strongly about Harriet Miers’s qualifications is I thought she would fill some very important gaps in the Supreme Court. Because right now you have people who’ve been federal judges, circuit judges most of their lives, or academicians. And what you see is a lack of grounding in reality and common sense that I think would be very beneficial.
Ms. Kagan is likewise a surprising choice because she lacks judicial experience. Most Americans believe that prior judicial experience is a necessary credential for a Supreme Court Justice.
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Senate Minority Leader.
Ms. Miers has an exemplary record of service to our country. She will bring to the Court a lifetime of experience in various levels of government, and at the highest levels of the legal profession. She is a woman of tremendous ability and very sound judgment. … Ms. Miers has great experience in government as well, at the local, state, and federal levels. …She is well qualified to join the nation’s highest court. … She will make a fine addition to the Supreme Court, and I look forward to her confirmation.
[Kagan is] the least qualified in terms of judicial experience in 38 years. Now some would argue that maybe we need to have people who don’t have judicial experience. I saw a survey indicating that about 70 percent of the American people think that judicial experience is a good idea for somebody who is going to be on the Supreme Court.
Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member.
My conversations with Harriet Miers indicate that she is a first-rate lawyer and a fine person. Her legal skills are proven and her reputation throughout the legal community is excellent. It is not necessary that she have previous experience as a judge in order to serve on the Supreme Court. It’s perfectly acceptable to nominate outstanding lawyers to that position.
Ms. Kagan’s lack of judicial experience and short time as Solicitor General, arguing just six cases before the Court, is troubling. The public expects Supreme Court nominees to possess a mastery of the law, a sound judicial philosophy, and a demonstrated dedication to the impartial application of the law and the Constitution. With no judicial opinions to consider, it will be especially important that other aspects of her record exhibit these characteristics.
Historically, quite a few Supreme Court Justices have not had any prior judicial experience.