President Bush's decision to make White House counsel Harriet Miers (search) his second Supreme Court nominee upset Hispanic groups that had hoped to see the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
"President Bush has again ignored highly qualified Latino judges, attorneys and law professors who could serve the nation ably on the United States Supreme Court," said Ann Marie Tallman, executive director of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (search), after Miers' nomination was announced Monday.
Several Hispanic lawyers and judges were thought to be on the president's short list, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (search) — the first Latino attorney general and a close friend of the president — and federal appellate judge Consuelo Callahan.
Also mentioned during the search were Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada and Judge Emilio Garza of the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Garza was President George H.W. Bush's second choice for the Supreme Court after Clarence Thomas.
Hispanics are a highly prized voter base, and Republicans have made increased effort to court their support. Bush won more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2004 re-election, compared with 35 percent four years earlier.
"The failure of this administration to nominate a Hispanic judge to the Supreme Court is a slap in the face to all those highly qualified Hispanic judges that dutifully serve on our federal courts across the nation," said Raul Yzaguirre, former president of the National Council of La Raza. "Our community continues to contribute to the greatness of this nation and yet, we are ignored for a vital role on our third branch of governance."
The Supreme Court has had only two black justices: the late Thurgood Marshall and Justice Clarence Thomas, and two female justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor.
Miers is nominated to replace O'Connor.