Yesterday was a good day for all those who care about justice, and an object lesson for the U.S. Senate. The California state Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously voted to confirm Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court.
It is gratifying that an individual of soon-to-be Justice Liu’s legal talent, insight, and wisdom will be on this important and influential court. Having had the great good fortune to work with him during his service on the National Women’s Law Center’s Board of Directors, I know him to be a person of the highest integrity and fairness, who is deeply committed to public service. The Center has benefitted from his extraordinary legal mind and analytical skills more times than I can count. Although we will miss him sorely as a Board member, we are more than consoled by the fact that he will bring his exceptional talents to one of the most respected state high courts in the country, whose decisions have been looked to by other courts nationwide.
When Governor Brown nominated Goodwin Liu this July, the enthusiastic support for the nomination was immediately apparent. A month later, the California Bar Association’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation rated him “exceptionally well qualified” and observed that “Professor Liu possesses a brilliant intellect, along with exceptional gifts for research and writing which allow him to parse complex and obscure legal doctrines and present them in the form of viable and understandable concepts.” The Commission concluded that Goodwin Liu will be “an ideal addition to the Supreme Court bench because his judicious consideration of all points of view will facilitate intellectual debate and consensus building.”
Yesterday, a month and a half after Governor Brown nominated Goodwin Liu, the Commission on Judicial Appointments heard the testimony of ten witnesses in support of the nomination. Letters of support flooded the offices of the Commission on Judicial Appointments, from over 130 law professors — including former Bush Administration officials John Yoo and Richard Painter — legal organizations, members of Congress, and the public. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Commission voted unanimously to confirm Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court. He will be sworn in today.
Washington, take note. California’s straightforward, expeditious process only highlights how broken the system for confirming federal judges is in the U.S. Senate today. President Obama nominated Goodwin Liu to a judicial emergency seat on the federal court of appeals in early 2009. For over two years, the nomination was delayed repeatedly by simple obstinacy on the part of a determined minority, which has been bent on unprecedented obstruction of the President’s judicial nominees in general, and that of soon-to-be Justice Liu in particular. His nomination was filibustered, and the Ninth Circuit seat remains vacant.
Although the federal judiciary will not directly benefit from the talents of this outstanding person, we can celebrate the fact that all of us will benefit from Justice Liu’s service on the influential California Supreme Court. And, if California’s confirmation process serves as an example and a wake-up call to our Senators here in Washington, we’ll all have reason to celebrate again in the name of justice.