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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I thank the majority leader for what he said on these nominations. As he knows, we have an awful lot of them that have come out, and then every time he has tried to move them quickly on the Senate floor there has been opposition from the other side.

It has been frustrating when we actually had nominations that waited months, or will have a cloture vote, and then they will get 90 or 95 votes for confirmation.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, would my friend yield for a question?

Mr. LEAHY. Of course.

Mr. REID. I ask the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to explain to everyone within the sound of our voices how important the DC Circuit is to our country.

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, it would be hard to state it any better than the Senator from Nevada has. But so many of the issues we grapple with every single day on this floor--regulatory issues, issues that affect the various departments of government--when there are appeals of those issues, when there are questions of what the Departments do, they invariably go to the DC Circuit. They don't go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court, as the distinguished Presiding Officer and the distinguished majority leader know, takes only a tiny percentage of cases that are appealed. But every one of these major legal issues that are appealed are heard by the DC Circuit, and it is frustrating to know there is a concerted effort on the other side to try to stop having a balance in the DC Circuit.

Every one of us as lawyers would hope we could come into a courtroom and know that if we have a good case, we would win it; and if we have a bad case, we would lose but that the cards aren't stacked against us because we are a Republican or Democrat. Because of the makeup of the DC Circuit, more and more people are getting the view--rightly or wrongly--it is stacked. The efforts of the Republican Party to block anybody else from going down there except for people they have vetted increase that impression that the court is stacked. That doesn't help the system of justice in the United States. It actually doesn't help whether you are a Republican or a Democrat because it destroys the idea of the impartiality of the courts.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask for permission to ask one more question of the senior Senator.

Mr. LEAHY. Of course.

Mr. REID. Legal scholars have said, and I have read, that they believe the DC Circuit is just a little bit below the Supreme Court; that it hears cases of such significance. That is why it was established some 65 years ago: to take care of cases the Supreme Court couldn't.

Is that true?

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, the Senator from Nevada is absolutely correct. I would even argue that in some areas it is more important than the Supreme Court because on so many of the issues that go there, they will have the final word. The Supreme Court could never hear all of the requests for appeals from the DC Circuit, and they become the final word.

So on the issues that involve average Americans based on what their government does, they will be decided in that circuit court, not in the Supreme Court. So it is extraordinarily important that we have a balanced court there.

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