September 22, 2010
AN EXTREME JUDICIAL BLOCKADE
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday with an agenda that includes consideration of nominees for federal district and circuit court judgeships who have already been approved by the committee once, or even twice.
They are going through the process again because Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote by the full Senate and then, having dragged things out, insisted on returning the nominations to the White House. They then invoked an obscure Senate rule that required the judicial candidates to be re-nominated. (Yes, these are the same Republicans who used to loudly demand that every one of President George W. Bush’s nominees get a vote on the Senate floor, regardless of their qualifications.)
The most prominent of the five repeaters is Goodwin Liu, a law professor and legal scholar who would be the only Asian-American serving as an active judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Liu went to Stanford, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated from Yale Law School. He clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before beginning a teaching career at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
Indeed, it is largely his stellar background that is fueling Republican opposition. Mr. Liu, who is 39, is seen as a strong possibility to be on President Obama’s short list for a future Supreme Court vacancy.
Conservatives do not like Mr. Liu’s support for same-sex marriage rights, affirmative action and his view that the Constitution is a living document that evolves over time. But his views fall well within the legal and political mainstream. His warnings that Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice
Samuel Alito would turn out to be extremely conservative were accurate. But Mr. Liu is no rigid liberal ideologue, as his support of school vouchers and charter schools attest. Kenneth Starr, the conservative lawyer who investigated President Bill Clinton, co-signed a letter vouching for Mr. Liu’s “independence and openness to diverse viewpoints.”
It would be nice if some Republican members of the Judiciary Committee voted for Mr. Liu and the four other re-nominees (along with three other new nominees). Whether they do or not, the White House and Senate Democrats should persist in fighting for their confirmation and the confirmation of the 16 other pending nominees already approved by the committee.
At the comparable point in the Bush presidency, the Senate had confirmed 61.4 percent of Mr. Bush’s nominees. For Mr. Obama, it’s under 50 percent. His nominees are no radicals. That description applies to Republicans holding up well-qualified choices like Mr. Liu.
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