WASHINGTON – After months of needless delay, the Senate continues to deny Asian Pacific American judicial nominees Professor Goodwin Liu and Judge Edward M. Chen an up-or-down vote.
Originally nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Aug. 6, 2009, Judge Chen has waited longer than any of President Obama’s judicial nominees – almost 500 days – for a confirmation vote. Professor Liu was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Feb. 24.
Until last week, the Senate had not moved any judicial nominations since September, despite the more than 100 vacancies in the federal judiciary and more than 50 judicial emergencies. Both Professor Liu and Judge Chen await confirmation to seats considered judicial emergencies.
Both parties are to blame for the mistreatment of these Asian Pacific American judicial nominees.
“Professor Liu and Judge Chen are both eminently qualified to serve, and the Senate has done both nominees and the Asian Pacific American community a grave disservice in failing to give them a long overdue floor vote in the Senate,” said Paul O. Hirose, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had promised California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer that the nominations of Professor Liu and Judge Chen would be taken up before the end of the year. In the face of continued filibuster threats by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership of these and the over 30 other pending judicial nominations, Senator Reid decided against scheduling time on the floor of the Senate to allow an up-or-down vote for Professor Liu and Judge Chen during the lame-duck session.
“We are deeply disappointed in the Senate and its failure to act with fairness towards these two well-qualified Asian Pacific American judicial nominees,” said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center. “Senator Reid should have brought both of these candidates up for a vote much earlier this year and Senator McConnell and his Republican colleagues should stop preventing the rest of the Senate from voting. The Republican leadership should stop blocking women and minority candidates and slowing down progress in increasing the diversity of the federal judiciary.”
Asian Pacific Americans are vastly underrepresented in the courts. Out of 875 active Article III judges in the nation, only 13 are Asian Pacific Americans. There is only one federal appellate judge in the country, and none on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where Asian Pacific Americans make up a significant percentage of the population.
If, as anticipated, the Senate does not take up the nominations of Professor Liu and Judge Chen before adjourning the 111th Congress, President Obama is expected to renominate both men next year. NAPABA and AAJC look forward to working with the new Senate on scheduling swift votes for both Professor Liu and Judge Chen. We hope and expect that Senate leadership will promptly schedule an up-or-down vote on both Professor Liu and Judge Chen and commit the necessary time for the Senate to fully consider these nominees.
NAPABA and AAJC applaud President Obama for his commitment to nominating well-qualified, diverse candidates to the bench, and thank Sens. Feinstein and Boxer for their continued leadership on this issue.