On March 2, Professor Goodwin H. Liu once again appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to testify in support of his confirmation to become a federal appellate court judge based in California. He was first nominated over a year ago on February 24, 2010. This was Professor Liu’s second confirmation hearing before that Committee. After a total of approximately 5 hours of testimony and the submission of over a thousand pages of documents, Professor Liu is now well overdue for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. When that vote is taken, Senators should vote in favor of this exceptionally qualified, measured, and inspirational second-generation, Asian Pacific American nominee.
No other judicial candidate nominated by President Barack Obama has had to undergo the scrutiny that Professor Liu has experienced. Although Senators absolutely have a right and duty to evaluate each nominee to ensure that they are fit for office, that evaluation must at some point result in a decision – an up or down vote. To do otherwise would be to hide behind procedural tactics based on political concerns or concerns over the outcome of the vote. Of course, each Senator must vote his or her conscience. Fundamentally, however, they should vote.
When they vote, it should be a resounding “yes” for confirmation. The assault on Professor Liu has been unfair. Some have argued that he is unqualified for the job based on his relative youth and lack of courtroom experience. Professor Liu graduated from Stanford University, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and received his law degree from Yale University. He had prestigious law clerkships with a D.C. Circuit judge and a Supreme Court Justice. The ABA gave Professor Liu its highest ranking of “Unanimously Well-Qualified.” Fox News anchor and legal analyst Megyn Kelly said that “his qualifications are unassailable,” and The New York Times agreed that he is “an exceptional nominee.” To the extent that he has not had a lifetime of courtroom experience, that factor has not prevented numerous individuals from serving as federal appellate court judges. Any suggestion that he does not have what it takes to do the job is far-fetched.
Still others have attacked him based on ideological grounds, charging that Professor Liu is a “radical” or “extremist” liberal. Any fair reading of Professor Liu’s writings and speeches would lead to the conclusion that Professor Liu is a mainstream nominee who is extremely intelligent, open-minded about different opinions and ideas, and very thorough in his scholarship. The list of people supporting Professor Liu further contradicts the notion that Professor Liu is a “radical liberal” who would bring a political agenda to the bench. The list includes prominent conservatives such as former federal appellate court judge and Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr, Republican Congressman Tom Campbell, Ford Administration Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman, Jr., school choice advocate Clint Bolick, and many others. All of these individuals believe that Professor Liu would make an excellent judge.
Why should this matter to Asian Pacific Americans? Among the approximately 875 federal judges with lifetime tenure in the United States, only 13 active judges are Asian Pacific American. That percentage is even lower among active federal appellate court judges, where only one (!) out of 175 is Asian Pacific American. Furthermore, there are nearly 100 current vacancies. Professor Liu’s confirmation as a federal appellate court judge is even more meaningful because he would be on the Ninth Circuit, the federal appellate court covering the West Coast and Hawaii, and where almost 40 percent of all Asian Pacific Americans in the United States reside. If Professor Liu is not confirmed, then Asian Pacific Americans will continue to be under-represented in the federal judiciary. Just as importantly, Asian Pacific Americans may be left with the impression that there continues to be a glass ceiling such that Asian Pacific Americans will be denied top level leadership positions regardless of their qualifications for the position.
All Americans should have an interest in having judges who are the best and brightest. Therefore, all Americans should support Professor Goodwin Liu.
Paul Hirose is the President of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. For more about Professor Liu’s nomination and what can be done to support him, go to www.confirmgoodwin.com.