Wednesday, December 15, 2010
GOP: Goodwin Liu, others too liberal - Abby Phillip - POLITICO.com
Law professor Goodwin Liu, 39, has credentials most jurists would envy: The son of Taiwanese immigrants, he holds degrees from Stanford University and Yale Law School, was a Rhodes scholar and is an associate dean at the University of California’s elite Boalt Hall Law School.
But Liu, whom President Barack Obama wants to serve on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, may fall victim to the demands of Senate Republicans negotiating with Democrats and the White House over the fate of 38 stalled judicial nominations. GOP lawmakers have flagged Liu and three other nominees as too liberal and inexperienced to be included with a batch of other “noncontroversial” candidates set for confirmation during the rapidly dwindling lame-duck legislative session.
“As a former academic himself, it’s clear that the president tends to prefer academic approaches to the law over the prosaic efforts to daily follow the law as written,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in May during a hearing on Liu’s nomination.
At the same time, failure to win Liu’s confirmation could lead to more anger from the left for Obama. The White House has studiously avoided a fight with the GOP over judicial nominees, and liberals complain that Democrats haven’t pushed hard enough for the four nominees, which would have forced Republicans to filibuster them.
The disappointment has been acute for the Asian-American community, which has closely watched Liu’s nomination.
“Eleven Republican senators have never voted against cloture on a judicial nominee,” said Vincent Eng, deputy director of the Asian American Justice Center, who is a friend and supporter of Liu’s. “Bringing the Liu nomination to the floor now would test the principle that Republicans are not obstructing judicial nominations.”
Civil rights advocates also fear that the progress Obama has made in diversifying the federal bench will be undone if Republicans get their way. If confirmed, Liu would be only the second Asian-American on a federal appeals court, which is widely viewed as a steppingstone for the Supreme Court.
“Overall, the Republicans are really flexing their muscles” by opposing the four, said Caroline Frederickson, executive director of the American Constitution Society. “They are all extremely mainstream nominees, and the fact of the matter is, the Republicans are trying to show the president that they’re in control.”
The deal Senate Democrats and Republicans are working on would clear only the most uncontroversial nominees. That includes Albert Diaz, a corporate lawyer and businessman who won the Judiciary Committee’s unanimous support but whose nomination was sidetracked for more than a year, and Edmond Chang, a former Bush administration District Court pick whom Obama renominated last year.
In opposing Liu and three other Obama nominees — Edward Chen, Louis Butler and John McConnell — Republicans have objected to their relatively liberal backgrounds and their positions on issues like Second Amendment rights and race relations.
Sessions and other GOP senators have argued that Liu, who has spent little time in the courtroom and has never been a judge, is too inexperienced and is a committed judicial activist, based on his writings and speeches.
“I really don’t think he’s ready for this appointment,” Sessions said.
But Liu’s supporters point to his compelling life story, his high-powered résumé and his reputation as a rising star in conventional legal circles. He’s received support from former independent counsel Kenneth Starr and Richard Painter, who was legal counsel to President George W. Bush.
The White House seems intent on avoiding partisan warfare like the two-year standoff over Bush nominee Miguel Estrada. Democrats blocked Estrada as too extreme, and the fight ended only after Republicans failed to bring his nomination to the floor three times and Estrada withdrew his nomination.