Confirm Goodwin Liu to the Court of Appeals

As I noted here last week, President Obama has nominated Goodwin Liu, a constitutional law professor of mine at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, to a position on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Unsurprisingly, the right wing is already setting its sites on Professor Liu, just as they have on virtually all of the President's other judicial nominees. I have tried to correct some of the record with regard to Professor Liu here at MyDD. But in an effort to broaden the effort, I have created a new website in support of his nomination:

The site is already loaded with a good deal of information -- statements from academics, politicians and media outlets of all stripes, Professor Liu's biography, fact checks. The site also contains a petition so that people can register their support for the nomination.

Professor Liu would make a great federal judge. Don't just take my word for it. Ask the American Bar Association, which awarded Goodwin Liu it's highest possible rating: a unanimous "well qualified." Ask the Sacramento Bee, which recently editorialized that "it is hard to image anyone who's better qualified than Liu." Ask the officials and academics from across the ideological and political spectrum speaking out on behalf of Professor Liu's nomination. Stop by today.

Goodwin Liu Earns Highest Possible Rating from ABA

The American Bar Association, which plays an integral role in the confirmation process through its review of nominees' records, has given Goodwin Liu (my professor, whose nomination to the 9th Circuit I wrote about yesterday) its highest possible rating (.pdf): A unanimous "well-qualified." The wingers aren't happy.

According to the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary’s explanation of its standards for rating judicial nominees, “a prospective nominee to the federal bench ordinarily should have at least twelve years’ experience in the practice of law.” Further, “the Committee recognizes that substantial courtroom and trial experience as a lawyer or trial judge is important.”

Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu hasn’t even been out of law school for twelve years yet (he graduated from Yale law school in the late spring of 1998), and he’s only been a member of a state bar since May 1999. His entire practice of law appear to consist of two years or so in appellate litigation, so it would appear that he has zero “trial experience as a lawyer.” Nor, of course, does he have any experience as a trial judge.

Despite all this, the ABA committee has somehow seen fit to give Liu its highest rating of “well qualified.” What a joke.

Was it "a joke" when Republican President Gerald Ford, at the urging of Ronald Reagan, nominated Anthony Kennedy, then age 38, to a seat on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit? Was it "a joke" when President Reagan nominated Alex Kozinski, then age 35 -- just 10 years out of law school -- to the 9th Circuit? How about when George W. Bush nominated the then-38 year old Brett Cavanaugh to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit? Did the conservatives speak out then? Senator Orrin Hatch, the former Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, certainly did not, defending the selection of Cavanaugh by noting that many Senators "began their service in their 30's if not barely age 30." Or do age criticisms only apply to progressive, not conservative, jurists? That is, the these extra-constitutional rules (there is no age restriction for judicial nominations anywhere in the Constitution) only apply when the Democrats are in office, not Republicans?

Obama Nominates Progessive Goodwin Liu for 9th Circuit

It was rumored last night, but now it's official: Goodwin Liu, a leading progressive legal theorist (and my constitutional law professor at Berkeley Law), has been nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Per release from the White House:

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama nominated Goodwin Liu for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Robert N. Chatigny for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Mr. Liu currently serves as an Associate Dean and Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Judge Chatigny currently serves as a U.S. District Judge for the District of Connecticut.

President Obama said, “Goodwin Liu and Robert Chatigny have proven themselves to be not only first-rate legal minds but faithful public servants. It is with full confidence in their ability, integrity, and independence that I nominate them to the bench of the United States Court of Appeals.”

Goodwin Liu: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Goodwin Hon Liu is an Associate Dean and Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. An acclaimed scholar, teacher, and lawyer, with experience in both the private and public sectors, Liu is a nationally-recognized expert on constitutional law and education law and policy. In 2009, he received Berkeley's most prestigious teaching award.

Prior to joining the Berkeley faculty in 2003, Liu was an associate at O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C. He clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the October 2000 Term, and for Judge David S. Tatel on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1998-1999. Between his clerkships, Liu served as a Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. He has also worked for the Corporation for National Service, where he helped launch the AmeriCorps program.

Liu was born in Augusta, Georgia, to parents who emigrated from Taiwan, and he grew up in Sacramento where he attended public schools. Liu earned a B.S. from Stanford University in 1991, an M.A from Oxford in 2002 (where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1998.

This is really great news -- it's hard to overstate this. It suggests that President Obama is starting to get it on judicial nominations -- that if the Republicans are going to mount filibusters against even moderate nominees with bipartisan support (see, for instance, the nomination of David Hamilton to the 7th Circuit last year), there is no reason not to nominate jurists with more ambitious views.

Liu is such a jurist. He is one of the brightest legal minds in the country, and what's more (and perhaps more importantly) he has the ability to articulate his views in a cogent manner. In other words, he would make a great judge. Additionally, at the age of 39, he would (if confirmed) have the ability to have a say in the direction of the law for decades to come.

Obama's Judicial Vacancies

Slate's Doug Kendall passes on some disturbing numbers:

By February 2002, President George W. Bush had nominated 89 judges to the lower federal courts. This week, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy prodded President Obama, who has nominated just 42 federal judges to date, to "get up names as quickly as possible." President Obama promised to make this "a priority." He'd better.

There are currently 102 vacancies on the federal bench. Of these, 31 constitute "judicial emergencies"—vacancies that have severely threatened a court's ability to handle its workload. Before the end of the year, there will be dozens of additional openings on the lower courts (20 have already been announced) and, in all likelihood, one and perhaps even two Supreme Court vacancies to fill. With an energized Republican Party, the loss of a filibuster-proof majority, and a scary-looking midterm election in November, Obama faces a difficult task in filling these vacancies this year. But this is it—when is he likely to have a better opportunity?

The numbers on judicial nominations are getting better -- but not at a tremendously fast rate. Back in September I pointed to numbers showing that Barack Obama had nominated more than two-thirds fewer jurists than George W. Bush had at a similar point in his Presidency. By November that deficit had fallen to 60 percent. Today, according to these nubmers from Kendall, President Obama's deficit in judicial nominations relative to George W. Bush -- who, remember, was facing a Senate in opposition Democratic hands by this time in his first term -- is down closer to 50 percent.

But with a real crisis in the judiciary in the form of dozens of vacancies, one has to wonder why this President has nominated fewer than half of the judges nominated by his predecessor. 

Will GOP Support for Gonzales Finally Dry Up?

Throughout the prosecutor purge scandal, I have been amazed by the extent to which Republicans on Capitol Hill, as well as the conservative establishment, have been willing to stand by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Certainly, there have been the occasional public statements from endangered Republican Senators along the lines of "If Gonzales were to resign it wouldn't be a bad thing" or "President Bush should seriously think about whether Gonzales is the most effective person to run the Department of Justice." Nonetheless, by withholding strong disapprobation or calls for impeachment proceedings, leading Republicans and conservatives have offered Gonzales the implied backing he has needed to remain as Attorney General.

Could that support, however tacit, be on the verge of drying up? We'll know more when tomorrow's vote of no-cofidence in the Senate rolls around. But judging by the crowing of Republicans about one notable consequence of the Gonzales scandal -- further slowing the judicial nomination process for the far right jurists the base wants to see placed on the bench to serve for the next few decades -- such a point may be coming sooner than we think. Check out Robert Barnes and Michael Abramowitz writing today in The Washington Post.

But though some people single out Democrats for criticism, others worry that changes in the White House counsel's office and the congressional uproar over Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales have pushed the issue lower on the priority list. "I have been pressing them to submit names -- because every day that passes it becomes that much more difficult," said Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the committee's ranking Republican. "I am not disappointed, because the president is busy. But there is an opportunity that could be missed if they don't start submitting names."

Added Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a strong White House ally who is on the committee: "With all the investigations and things that have been going on, we have not seen a steady stream of nominees coming to the Senate."

Congresisonal Republicans and their conservative allies have to this point been willing to stick with George W. Bush, and thus Alberto Gonzales, because they believed doing so was in their interest. A drawn out confirmation battle over an Attorney General -- who, by the way, would serve a year and a half or less -- would slow the confirmation process for conservative jurists, thus setting back their one of their top priorities.

But given the fact that the confirmation process is already moving slowly -- too slowly for a great number in the far right wing of American politics -- perhaps conservatives and Republicans on Capitol Hill will come to the realization that their support for the Attorney General and the President is not in fact serving their cause. I'm not by any means banking on the situation playing out as such. Yet just trying to read the tea leaves, I wouldn't be terribly surprised to find at least a few in the conservative ranks calling for Gonzales to go in the not too distant future.

There's more...


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