Despite the fact that Professor Goodwin Liu was nominated over a year ago to a seat designated a “judicial emergency” on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the fact that he has superb qualifications and a lifelong commitment to public service, despite the fact that he has support from leading Republican and Democratic lawyers alike, and despite the fact that he has the support of a majority of Senators, a determined minority in the Senate has persisted in blocking an up-or-down vote on his nomination – until now. The long-overdue end to this blockade is in sight. Last night, Senate Majority Leader Reid filed a petition to end debate on Professor Liu’s nomination. On Thursday morning the Senate will vote on whether to end debate and allow a vote on the nomination.
One might well ask why the delay – and why the controversy. A quick review of his background would not provide a ready answer. He is, quite simply, a legal superstar with broad expertise, including on one of the most pressing issues facing the country. A Professor of Law at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law, Professor Liu has focused on constitutional law and education law and policy and is one of the nation’s leading experts on educational equity. He has received U.C. Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award and is a former Associate Dean of the law school. He graduated with distinction from Stanford University, and is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former Rhodes Scholar. He served in the prestigious positions as a law clerk both on a federal court of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court and practiced at a prominent law firm before embarking on his remarkable academic career. With this spectacular legal pedigree, it is no surprise that the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave Professor Liu a unanimous rating of “well qualified.”
If that is not enough, his personal qualities only make him all the more unique. He is the son of immigrants, who from an early age instilled in him a love of learning, and his own life exemplifies the importance of educational opportunity in this country. He has testified to his deep respect for the rule of law and the limited role of the judiciary in our constitutional democracy. He has been devoted to public service: he’s held positions at the Corporation for National Service and the Department of Education and devoted significant volunteer time to non-profit organizations like the National Women’s Law Center, of which I am co-President and on whose Board of Directors Goodwin Liu currently serves. I, like so many others, am a great admirer, having observed up close Professor Liu’s fairness, kindness and ability to bring people together.
In a testament to his exceptional qualifications, Goodwin Liu has received support from across the ideological spectrum. Law professor John Yoo, a former Justice Department official in the administration of President George W. Bush, with impeccable conservative credentials, has called Professor Liu “well-qualified.” Kenneth Starr, currently president of Baylor University, former Solicitor General under President Ronald Reagan, and certainly well-known as a Special Prosecutor, wrote a letter praising Professor Liu’s “independence and openness to diverse viewpoints as well as his ability to follow the facts and the law to their logical conclusion, whatever its political valence may be.” Clint Bolick, Director of the conservative Goldwater Institute, strongly supports Professor Liu’s nomination, saying that he “clearly possesses the scholarly credentials and experience to serve with distinction on this important court.”
Thursday morning’s cloture vote on Professor Liu’s nomination will give Senators the opportunity to allow this highly qualified nominee to receive a yes-or-no vote, a year after his nomination, after two Judiciary Committee hearings and three Committee votes, and after ample opportunity to debate and discuss the nominee’s record. For those who have decried judicial filibusters in the past, this is beyond question a nominee who deserves that up-or-down vote. It’s all the more important to move nominated judges forward when nearly ten percent of the seats on the federal bench around the country sit empty, and when caseloads of judges on the court to which Professor Liu has been nominated are overwhelming – meaning that Americans who rely on the courts for justice are waiting in vain. It is time for the Senate to end that wait: confirm Goodwin Liu.