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Kennedy on Nomination of Peter Keisler to D.C. Circuit

Location: Unknown

"Mr. Chairman, I'm concerned that the Committee is proceeding with undue haste on the nomination of Mr. Keisler. There are important unresolved matters that we should consider before we reach a decision.

First, is the issue we raised in the letter we sent you last week, urging the Committee to examine the need to fill the 11th or 12th judgeships on the D.C. Circuit. Republican members of this Committee strongly opposed attempts by the Clinton Administration to fill the 11th seat and they were successful in blocking well-qualified nominees. They argued that the court did not have enough cases to justify that number of judges. Since then, the number of written opinions issued by the court has declined by 17%. The number of cases resolved on the merits per judge is down 21%, and the number of cases filed per judge is down 10%. We should consider these caseload declines carefully before we fill the current vacancy. American taxpayers deserve no less.

In addition, we have had very little time to consider the record of Mr. Keisler. He was nominated only a month ago, and the ABA did not complete its evaluation of him until yesterday. As we all know, the D.C. Circuit is second in importance only to the Supreme Court. We should proceed with particular care in confirming judges to that Court. In fact, among the last seven D.C. Circuit nominees, the shortest period from nomination to hearing was 71 days. We have barely had 30 days for Mr. Keisler. This rush has left very little time to study and, in some instances, even to assemble his record. We know that he has served in high government positions and has had a successful private practice, and has received a well qualified rating by the ABA. But we have had little real opportunity to examine his record.

We know that he worked in the Reagan White House, but we know virtually nothing about what he worked on there. We have not had the opportunity to obtain records from that period of his career. We know that he was a founder and longtime high ranking officer in the Federalist Society and that he was upset that Judge Bork was not confirmed to the Supreme Court. Indeed, he dismissed criticism of Judge Bork's record, stating: "It's just a bunch of hot air. I think Bork is in the mainstream." And he is reported to have said: "It was extremely frustrating to see ideas that had previously been considered part of a reasonable debate excommunicated and defined as extreme by the Senate." As one who sat on this Committee when Judge Bork was considered, I disagree strongly with those views.

I, therefore, hope that we will have an opportunity to look carefully into all of these issues before we proceed to vote the merits of this nomination."

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