Senators Spar Over Liu Nomination

Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:11pm

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee dueled Friday over Goodwin Liu’s nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with Republicans looking to portray him as an extremist pick for the bench and Democrats highlighting his life story and academic credentials.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who presided over the hearing, noted that Liu is the son of Taiwanese immigrants and talked up his experience clerking for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also mentioned Liu’s credentials and used the hearing to accuse Republicans of trying to derail the nomination.

“They are being unfair. Their obstruction has prevented him from addressing these questions while the attacks continue,” Leahy said. “It’s time to hear from professor Liu.”

Republicans have steadily sharpened their knives over the nomination. During Friday’s hearing, they once again made an issue of omissions in Liu’s questionnaire and argued he would be an activist judge on the liberal-leaning 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“If you truly respect the Constitution, you will enforce it whether you like it or not. That’s the responsibility of being a judge,” ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told Liu, a University of California-Berkley law professor.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told Liu, “You bring an agenda to the court, and you’ve written about how you can bring that agenda to the judicial process.”

Liu endured several rounds of questions, mostly from Republicans, while his wife, two young children and parents sat in the rows behind him. The 39-year-old, who Republicans fear could be a candidate for the Supreme Court some day, tried to temper GOP concerns about his nomination and assured Members that he would be an impartial judge.

“I would approach every case with an open mind,” he said.

Asked whether judges can separate their personal views from judicial decisions, Liu responded, “I believe they can, and I believe they must.”

The hearing, which kicked off at 10 a.m., took a 30-minute break around 12:30 p.m. Members were expected to return for additional rounds of questioning.