Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COONS. Mr. President, I rise today to support Goodwin Liu's nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Years ago, in the early 1990s when I was working for the national I Have a Dream Foundation, I first crossed paths with Goodwin Liu, who was then a senior program officer with the Corporation for National Service. An issue had arisen with regard to the corporation's support of one of our foundation's programs. We were running an AmeriCorps program. Mr. Liu very quickly distinguished himself through his competence and obvious commitment to education and national service. In fact, my interactions with him were so positive and memorable that 18 years later, when I had joined this body and heard of his nomination, I immediately remembered him and was anxious to find out what he had been up to in the intervening years.

The opportunity to reconnect with Goodwin Liu as part of his confirmation process has turned out to be one of the real pleasures of this job. It is readily apparent to me, as well as to so many Senators on both sides of the aisle who have had the opportunity to meet with him, to question him, and get to know him better, that Professor Goodwin Liu is a good, decent, bright, and engaging man.

His career, in my view, is marked by a profound commitment to service, from his time working at the Corporation for National Service, the organization of our Federal Government that supports VISTA and AmeriCorps, and all sorts of different commitments to national service across our country, to his later work as a clinical and summer associate while in law school, to his work for the Department of Education as a young attorney, to his service as a judicial clerk, and then his scholarship in support of opportunities for all Americans.

Professor Liu has been guided by a desire to leave the world a better place than he found it. Despite these many positive personal qualities to recommend him, it is, perhaps, something of an understatement to say that Goodwin Liu's has been controversial.

First nominated in February of 2010, and then after a searching and difficult nomination hearing, and a vote here, a renomination in January of this year, a second confirmation hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee, in which I was able to participate, we now stand on the verge of a cloture vote required for us to even get to the consideration of his nomination.

Professor Liu is a prolific scholar, who has written on a number of topics relating to educational rights and public schooling, among others.

When I heard the attacks against Professor Liu, I was shocked, but concerned. The charges that are being leveled against Professor Liu--that he is a radical who would use the bench to engage in judicial activism--are serious. So I took it upon myself to meet with Professor Liu, to review his record, and to come to my own conclusions.

I can say with certainty that Professor Liu will be a first-rate judge in the finest traditions of the legal profession. Professor Liu knows the difference between lecturing and judging. He knows that the role of a judge is not to advocate but to follow the Constitution and the precedents of the Supreme Court. Goodwin Liu will obey the law. We can and should ask no more.

If we take a step back from the partisan rhetoric, I think we can find broad agreement across the aisle that a judicial candidate ought to be evaluated according to his legal ability and experience, his standing within the legal profession, his integrity, and his temperament. Professor Liu rates extraordinarily highly in all of these areas.

Professor Liu's academic and professional qualifications demonstrate that he is a lawyer of the utmost ability with a broad range of experience. He was a Rhodes scholar and holds a law degree from Yale University, where he was editor of the Yale Law Journal. He went on to clerk for one of the great intellects on the DC Circuit, Judge David Tatel. After that, he clerked for Justice Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. Since that time, he has worked in private practice and earned a tenured professorship at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. At Berkeley, he has been a prolific scholar of exceptionally high regard.

In addition to a sterling resume, Professor Liu enjoys the highest esteem of his colleagues. Noted conservative scholar John Yoo has spoken out in support of his nomination, as has Kenneth Starr. He is the recipient of the University of California's highest teaching award. Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute, has said that Professor Liu's writings ``exhibit fresh, independent thinking and intellectual honesty.'' This high opinion of Professor Liu is broadly shared. In giving Professor Liu its highest rating of ``Unanimously Well Qualified,'' the American Bar Association interviewed scores of attorneys and judges who have worked with Professor Liu and, evidently, found that his reputation is one of impartiality, integrity, and great ability. For nominees to our circuit courts of appeal, we could ask no less.

Professor Liu's activity as a noted legal and policy scholar is, in my view, being used unfairly to impugn his judicial temperament. In meeting with Professor Liu, he explained to me that he understands and respects the difference between scholarship and jurisprudence. Academics explore the contours and limits of the law, often advocating for policy outcomes. Judges, on the other hand, apply legal precedent to come to the conclusion that the law compels, without prejudice or a policy agenda.

When Professor Liu has been asked to apply the law, as would a judge, any criticism that he allows policy preferences to cloud his judgment does not pass muster. As an example, though Professor Liu has said that his personal views are that individuals should be treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation. Even so, he testified before the California State Senate in 2008 that California's controversial Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages, would pass muster under the California constitution. This is a concrete example, from before his nomination to public office, that Professor Liu is capable and willing to set aside personal preferences and views when called upon to render a legal judgement.

I also examined Professor Liu's scholarship on the topics of education and welfare, to which his opponents claim he would create a constitutional right if confirmed to the bench. I would be concerned if these charges have merit, but they do not. Rather, they reflect a distortion of what he has actually written. Professor Liu has repeatedly clarified his unexceptional belief that Congress, and not the courts, have the power to create new fundamental rights through amendment to our Constitution.

An objective review of Professor Liu's qualifications, temperament, and intellect lead to the conclusion that he is an outstanding nominee and should be confirmed to the bench. Former Representative Tom Campbell, a five-term Republican Member of the House, agrees. In urging his swift confirmation, Representative Campbell specifically praised Professor Liu's reputation for, quote ``integrity, fair-mindedness, and collegiality.''

I call upon all of my colleagues to take a fresh look at Professor Liu and to come to their own conclusions about him. In my opinion, Professor Liu is a dedicated public servant who has undergone intense scrutiny over the past 15 months at great personal sacrifice. Too often, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that judicial and executive nominees are also people, with families, careers, and other responsibilities in their lives. The confirmation process can exact a steep cost and, as a result, many qualified and decent individuals either withdraw or decline to submit to it in the first place.

Professor Liu is an exceptional nominee to the Circuit Court. He has borne the challenges of confirmation with grace and dignity, as is in keeping with his character and dedication to public service. In voting on the petition to invoke cloture, I ask my colleagues to consider the content of Professor Liu's character. Listen to those who know him above the interest groups who have sensationalized his nomination. I ask them to consider his bipartisan support from those who work with him and those who know him best.

I know Goodwin Liu. I trust him and know he will make a fine judge. I urge my colleagues to support his confirmation.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top