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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

EXECUTIVE SESSION -- (Senate - October 24, 2007)


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, today the Senate has a golden opportunity to take a big stride forward in working its way out of this judicial nomination mess we are in. At some point we as a body are going to have to take partisanship out of this judicial nomination process if we hope to continue to attract great candidates to the Federal bench. We have seen other great nominees withdraw because of the stress and difficulty of this process. Fortunately, Judge Southwick has stood firm so that the Senate has a chance to confirm him.

Leslie Southwick is an Iraq veteran and has already demonstrated that he is a great jurist. From the testimonials of people in Mississippi, regardless of political or cultural differences, he is fairminded, not biased, and is an outstanding pick for this seat.

It is incredible to observe the vitriolic opposition to this nomination that is built wholly on two written opinions in question that Judge Southwick did not even write. How can the Senate seriously say that those two opinions, in a vacuum, show that Judge Southwick is racist or insensitive to minority litigants? The support from African-Americans in Mississippi exposes that the opposition is politically motivated.

The Senate and the Judiciary Committee must step away from the politically based litmus tests that currently control the nominations process. We must also stop focusing purely on the results of cases, without any context to the facts and law at issue, as the sole indicator of a nominee's judicial philosophy.

I ask my colleagues to seriously reconsider our current course and let Judge Southwick have a fair up-or-down vote.

When we are reviewing judicial nominees, we should ask ourselves three questions:

First, does the nominee have the basic qualifications to be a good judge?

In this case, the answer is yes. The American Bar Association twice rated Judge Southwick ``well qualified,'' with the ABA actually increasing their rating to ``unanimously well qualified'' when he was nominated to the Fifth Circuit vacancy.

Second, does the nominee possess the appropriate judicial temperament so that every litigant will be treated fairly when they come before this nominee?

The answer again is yes. If you read the many letters from lawyers and judges in the Mississippi legal community, they clearly believe litigants are treated fairly and impartially before Judge Southwick.

Third, does the nominee respect the proper constitutional role of a judge to not create law from the bench?

Again the answer is yes. The record clearly demonstrates that Judge Southwick is and will be a restrained jurist.

As Congress we should be thrilled when a judge shows that he will be restrained in his rulings from the bench. We write the laws, and we should be grateful that a judge knows he is not a Member of Congress and will defer to us in the task of writing law.

Again, I ask my colleagues to move beyond petty partisanship with quality nominees like Judge Southwick, and let's give him a vote.

I yield the floor.

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