23
Okt
2005

Miers family received 'excessive' sum in land case

Posted on Sat, Oct. 22, 2005

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/12973371.htm

Miers family received 'excessive' sum in land case

By JACK DOUGLAS JR. and STEPHEN HENDERSON

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers collected more than 10 times the market value for a small slice of family-owned land in a large Superfund pollution cleanup site in Dallas where the state wanted to build a highway off-ramp.

The windfall came after a judge who received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Miers' law firm appointed a close professional associate of Miers and an outspoken property-rights activist to the three-person panel that determined how much the state should pay.

The resulting six-figure payout to the Miers family in 2000 was despite the state's objections to the "excessive" amount and to the process used to set the price. The panel recommended paying nearly $5 a square foot for land that was valued at less than 30 cents a square foot.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/12973371.htm

Mediation efforts in 2003 reduced the award from $106,915 to $80,915, but Miers, who controls the family's interest in the land, hasn't reimbursed the state for the $26,000 difference, even after Bush appointed her to the Supreme Court.

The case raises new questions about Miers' judgment at a time when her nomination is troubled by doubts about her qualifications for the nation's highest court and accusations that she was chosen mostly because of her close friendship with President Bush.

Nothing indicates that Miers sought out the judge or engineered the appointments to the panel, but there's also no indication that she reported the potential conflicts of interest in the case or tried to avoid them.

Supreme Court justices, unlike other government officials, define potential conflicts of interest for themselves and are responsible for policing their own ethics.



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