Mainstream Judicial Nominees
Last week the President’s nominated Goodwin Liu, a professor at UC-Berkeley, for a seat on the Ninth Circuit. I went to law school with Goodwin, and he is exceptionally smart, thoughtful, and fair-minded. Though we do not approach constitutional issues in a similar way, he would be a superb judge.
Consequently, I was very disappointed by the statement released by Senator Jeff Sessions (R), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. Of particular note was the Senator’s assertion that Professor Liu is “far outside the mainstream of American jurisprudence,” which was followed up by the not-so-reassuring claim that “his record will be examined carefully and fairly.” The idea that Professor Liu or his scholarship is exceptional for anything other than excellence is absurd.
Moreover, I don’t know what the mainstream of American jurisprudence is, unless that is supposed to mean “Think like Justice Kennedy.” (And if you believe that is the appropriate standard for judges, think again). In truth, there are two currents in the mainstream–liberal and conservative. For example, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito are mainstream conservatives, while Justice Sotomayor is a mainstream liberal. Anyone who fits that category should be confirmed by the Senate unless a valid issue is raised about that candidate’s integrity or experience. Professor Liu easily passes that test.
Unfortunately, there are many organizations and lawyers inside the Beltway whose existence and ability to sustain themselves through fundraising is predicated on stirring up judicial confirmation fights. Since there are not enough Supreme Court nominations to go around, these groups now target circuit nominees. Both sides of the political divide are guilty of this behavior, and they ought to knock it off.