Professor Goodwin Liu
AAP staff report
WASHINGTON (May 19, 2011) – The U.S. Senate voted last week to halt the confirmation of Goodwin Liu, President Obama’s judicial nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – and the failure of a cloture vote on his nomination has prompted comments ranging in disappointment to anger from Asian Pacific Islander American leaders.
Liu was nominated by President Obama to fill a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over 15 months ago and was approved three times by the Senate Judiciary Committee. A renowned legal scholar, an award-winning teacher, and a savvy lawyer, his nomination attracted support from across the political and ideological spectrum despite the partisan obstruction.
The vote on a petition for cloture – which would have ended debate and allowed for a full Senate vote on Liu’s merits – failed 52 to 43, with 1 Senator voting present. Four Senators did not vote. Sixty votes are required to end debate. A simple majority of votes is needed for a vote on the merits of a judicial nomination.
A coalition of APIA groups called the Senate failure to pass a cloture vote on Liu “a travesty of the democratic process.” The complete voting record is viewable online at http://tinyurl.com/goodwinvote.
Both Minnesota U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken votes “Yes” to confirm the nomination of Professor Liu.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national civil and human rights organizations, said the Republican-led filibuster of Professor Goodwin Liu’s nomination is a “reckless escalation in the ongoing campaign by the Senate’s Republican minority to delay and deny confirmation votes to scores of well-qualified judicial nominees.”
“The disrespect Republicans have shown to our federal courts is beyond disturbing,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference. “Some nominees have been forced to put their lives and careers on hold for up to two years. But the greatest cost has been to justice itself and the people of our nation who depend on the federal courts to enforce their rights and settle their disputes. Courtrooms without judges are simply incapable of dispensing justice.”
“America’s courts are being held hostage to a stubborn minority of senators placing politics above responsible stewardship of our judicial system,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president, The Leadership Conference. “Highly qualified nominees like Professor Liu deserve to have an up-or-down confirmation vote on the Senate floor.
“We commend those senators who put partisan politics aside today to vote to allow a confirmation vote on Professor Liu,” Zirkin said. “And we urge senators of both political parties to follow suit and give advice and consent to the president’s nominees. It’s their responsibility to a functioning justice system and to our Constitution.”
Paul O. Hirose, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, said NAPABA is outraged with the failure of the Senate to allow Liu the decency of an up-or-down vote.
“Although a bipartisan majority of the Senate was prepared to vote on Professor Liu – and, we believe, a similar majority was prepared to confirm him – Professor Liu has been denied this opportunity because of obstructionism,” said Hirose. “We are deeply troubled that an exceptional nominee who would also add much needed diversity to the federal bench is denied even a vote by the Senate.”
Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, said the failure to allow a vote is “appalling.”
“Asian Pacific Americans are vastly under-represented in the federal appellate courts, where there is only one active Asian Pacific American judge,” said Narasaki. “Especially during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, it is shameful that a well-qualified Asian Pacific American nominee has been denied the opportunity to serve his country as a federal judge because of extreme partisanship and ugly distortions of his record.”
In an edition of The Hill this week, Norman Mineta, the first APIA member of the presidential cabinet – in both the G.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, addressed the importance of this nomination to the APA community, stating that “Liu is an extremely well-qualified nominee who has the intellectual capacity, experience, temperament and integrity to be an excellent jurist. If Liu is not confirmed, Asian Pacific Americans may be left with the impression that there continues to be a glass ceiling blocking Asian Pacific Americans from top-level leadership positions regardless of their qualifications.”
The National Asian Pacific Bar Association echoed APA leaders in pointing to the appearance of a double standard applied to judicial nominees.
“Numerous Republican Senators have repeatedly stated that they believed that filibustering judicial nominees is unconstitutional, and that they believed that all nominees deserved an up-or-down vote,” said Tina Matsuoka, executive director, NAPABA. “For these same Senators to treat prior judicial filibusters as historical precedents and models of Senate behavior suggests that politics has triumphed over principles. Professor Liu, the Asian Pacific American community, and the American public are the victims. In contrast, we applaud Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who had the courage to stand by her ‘no filibuster’ pledge.”
NAPABA and AAJC stated that Liu had the support of a broad collection of groups and individuals, including conservatives Kenneth Starr, former Representative Tom Campbell, and Richard Painter. Many faith-based, labor, civil rights, Latino, and African American organizations joined the Asian Pacific American community in support of confirmation.
California U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer advocated in support of Liu’s confirmation and of President Barack Obama’s nomination. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy led efforts in securing a vote on the nomination.
U.S. Congressman David Wu (OR-1) said Liu is viewed as an exceptional legal mind from his peers across the political spectrum. He attended the first confirmation hearing last year, and was convinced of Liu’s complete command of the law and dedication to civil rights. He said Liu’s personal story as the son of immigrants from Taiwan make him a superb nominee to serve on the federal bench.
“After stalling on Professor Liu’s nomination for more than a year and subjecting him to two confirmation hearings, the Republican ideologues in the Senate have shamefully played partisan politics with our judicial system,” said Wu. “Goodwin Liu is a supremely qualified nominee, and the Senate’s failure to confirm him demonstrates Republicans’ shameful preference of politicking over governing.”
George C. Wu, executive director, Organization of Chinese Americans, said that after 400 days sine the initial nomination, it was unacceptable that Liu and his supporters from both sides of the political spectrum were denied an up-or-down vote by a minority of Senators.
“When the democratic systems fails to give a highly qualified nominee, to a seat deemed a judicial emergency in the U.S., a basic up-or-down vote, we all lose,” said Wu. “OCA thanks Goodwin Liu for his tireless efforts to serve the people of the United States as a judge and for the inspiration for civic engagement his nomination provided for the APA community.”
Debra L. Ness, president, National Partnership for Women & Families, said the failture is a bitter disappointment and a clear sign that the judicial process has fallen victim to partisan politics – at the expense of equal opportunity and justice.
“Highly qualified nominees like Goodwin Liu must be confirmed, particularly when we have an unprecedented and escalating number of vacancies on the federal bench,” said Ness. “We urge the Senate to put politics aside and prioritize the objective consideration and confirmation of qualified judicial nominees. Continuing the political stall tactics will further threaten our courts and mean greater delays for Americans awaiting justice.”
Goodwin 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.
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 and for Judge David S. Tatel on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 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. He earned a B.S. from Stanford University, an M.A from Oxford (where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. from Yale Law School.