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Public Statements

Executive Session

Location: Washington, DC

EXECUTIVE SESSION -- (Senate - July 24, 2006)


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, it is a privilege to be on the committee with the Senator from Pennsylvania, and it is a privilege to represent Jerome Holmes during his debate and consideration for the Tenth Circuit Court position.

A lot of discussions have occurred in this body in the last couple of years on judges. One of the things which was prominent in my election to the Senate was the issue of judges. It really comes back down to what the American people would like to see in those people who sit on the highest courts of our land and what are the qualities and characteristics we would like them to have and do they go through a process where those are fairly vetted and taken out of the political arena to see what those qualities are.

Thinking about Jerome Holmes, Senator Specter very well outlined his history. So there is no question that he has impeccable credentials and that he is considered well qualified by the American Bar Association. But what he does have is two things. One is a constitutionally correct and appropriate opinion as to the position of judges in our society. Their job is to take the Constitution, take our statutes and our treaties, and, in the light of Supreme Court precedent, rule only on those things--not to create new law, not to invent a cause they want to make. They are to be very limited in their role. Jerome Holmes understands that.

The second characteristic he has is that of integrity. We hear that word bantered around a lot, and we hear modifiers placed on it. You cannot modify integrity. You either have it or you don't. Your life either represents it or it does not. What people see you do and how you do it is either of integrity or not.

This is an African-American male who was raised in this city, who struggled to accomplish the highest levels of his profession. He excelled every step of the way. Not only did he apply his efforts in terms of his profession, but he spent a great deal of his time applying his skills, knowledge, and intellect to help other people outside of the field of law.

He is a man committed to our country, who has full recognition of what his responsibilities will be as an appellate court judge in the Tenth Circuit in this country. He also fully well knows that his role is to follow the precedent set by the highest Court in this land and to do that in a way which gives everyone before him a truly blind cause of justice for their benefit. We cannot ask more than that of our judges--that in fact they have not only integrity and intellect, but the last thing we can ask is, Do they have heart? Do they have compassion? Have they experienced the real problems of life personally, so that they can see into the lives of others and how they deal with those things in the predicaments and situations which we face and whether they follow a response that is one of integrity. I have no question in my mind that Jerome Holmes has the qualities and characteristics which will make him an excellent appellate judge.

We are going to hear some opposition to him. The opposition is basically because he believes in a colorblind society. He has written commentaries based on what he believes personally. He has been critical--and rightly so, as many in this body have been, and others--of decisions the Supreme Court has made. But to be critical doesn't mean one will not follow what is called stare decisis, the precedent set down by the Supreme Court.

It takes great courage for an African-American male to look at affirmative action in a light that says that in the long run, it hurts race relations rather than helps them. Those are my words, not his. But, in fact, what he has done is said this goes against what he believes to be fair and honorable, as we approach the problems within our society. What he really believes is that everybody should be judged on the content of their character, not on the color of their skin.

So we will hear a lot over the next 4 hours--2 hours today and 2 hours tomorrow--from those people who would question his position. It is OK to question it, but it is not OK to oppose him on the basis of what his personal beliefs are. If we do that, there is not a judge who can qualify. Not one judge could qualify for any court in this land if we take all their personal opinions and put them out in the open and say: This goes against something I believe.

So I am honored that I have the privilege to stand on the Senate floor and defend the criticisms that will come before him. I also know he has heart, he has intellect, and he has integrity. That is what we want. It doesn't matter whether he is Black or White or whether he is Republican or Democrat, we want those qualities in our judges. That is how we assure our freedom--we take the political arena away and out of the courts, and we let the Constitution and our statutes and our treaties reign supreme. That is the best equality for all that we can give to the next generation.

With that, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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