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Editorial | Island Voices

Goodwin Liu’s nomination should have been OK’d


All Americans should be proud of Goodwin Liu.

Liu, whose nomination to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was blocked May 19 by Senate Republicans, represents the best of America. A second-generation American born to Taiwanese immigrants, he has consistently excelled through hard work and dedication — a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Stanford University, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, editor of the law journal at Yale Law School and a law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Time after time, he has chosen positions to best serve the public, helping to launch the public service program AmeriCorps, and working at the U.S. Department of Education to help improve low-performing schools. At the University of California at Berkeley, Liu became a popular law professor and associate dean who is now widely regarded as one of the nation’s most distinguished constitutional law experts.

He has earned the respect and admiration of friends and legal adversaries alike.

That is why is it unfathomable to us that Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the nomination of Goodwin Liu to serve on the Ninth Circuit — a vitally important court that covers California, Hawaii, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam and the Northern Marianas.

They filibustered this exceptionally well-qualified nominee. In doing so, our Republicans colleagues not only deprived Liu of the up-or-down vote he deserved, but they deprived the citizens of our great states the service of a young man who at age 40 already embodies the intelligence, independence and integrity that we need on the federal bench.

It is a sad day for our country when we reject a brilliant and widely respected legal scholar who would have been the only Asian-American on the Ninth Circuit, which is home to more than 40 percent of our nation’s Asian-American population. In fact, Liu would have been only the second Asian Pacific American out of 160 federal appellate court judges. And out of 875 judges nationwide he would have been only the 15th Asian-American judge with lifetime tenure.

Liu had strong support from all across the political spectrum. Conservative legal icon Ken Starr praised Liu’s "strong intellect, demonstrated independence and outstanding character" while Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, called Liu an "excellent choice" for the bench. Former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell said Liu would "bring scholarly distinction and a strong reputation for integrity, fair-minded­- ness and collegiality to the Ninth Circuit."

Since being nominated by President Barack Obama more than a year ago, Liu has done everything asked of him. He sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee — twice — for more than five hours of questions. He’s answered every written question from committee members. His nomination was approved by the Judiciary Committee three different times.

Yet as Liu waited for a full Senate vote — longer than any appellate court nominee during the Obama administration — he faced attacks and baseless distortions of his record.

The treatment professor Liu received in the Senate has been shameful.

Norm Mineta, a former Cabinet secretary who served for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, wrote an op-ed before the Senate vote warning that "if Liu is not confirmed, Asian Pacific Americans may be left with the impression that there continues to be a glass ceiling blocking Asian Pacific Americans from top level leadership positions regardless of their qualifications."

We could have made history by ensuring that this eminently qualified nominee became the sixth Asian Pacific American judge in U.S. history confirmed to the federal appellate court. We could have taken another step toward creating a judicial system that reflects the best of America.

When we reject a nominee of this caliber, we weaken America’s legal system.

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