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Goodwin Liu
On May 9, 2001, President George W. Bush held a special White House gathering to announce his first eleven nominees to the United States Court of Appeals. From a lawyer's perspective, it was a Murderer's Row (in the baseball sense, not the murdering sense) of young conservative lawyers with an opportunity for influential lifetime posts and, someone of them, being groomed and credentialed for a Supreme Court nomination down the road. Indeed, GHWB administration veterans John Roberts and Miguel Estrada (DC Circuit) was among that first group of nominees, as were Edith Clement and Priscilla Owen for the Fifth Circuit. If you were a conservative who cared about the federal judiciary, that was a day to make you proud.

It's ten years later, and President Obama hasn't quite given us a day like that, a day to spotlight the next generation of judges who would take seriously the Constitution's role in protecting individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, access to justice, democracy and the rule of law. On a day like that, you'd know in the back of your head, even if a few of them are filibustered, the ones who are confirmed will make a lasting impact.

To be sure, much of the White House's judicial energies had to be concentrated on the two Supreme Court vacancies, and we are all hopeful that Justices Sotomayor and Kagan are strong voices for progressive values on the Court for a long time to come. But when a Democratic President gets to make another Supreme Court nomination a decade from now, who will be the young, credentialed progressives capable of being confirmed?

That's why tomorrow's cloture vote on Goodwin Liu's nomination to the 9th Circuit matters so much -- both because of Liu's own sterling credentials and remarkable potential, but also to give the President confidence to nominate ten more like him soon.

Liu was first nominated by the President for the 9th Circuit in 2010. He's a former Rhodes Scholar who clerked for Judge David Tatel on the DC Circuit and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the Supreme Court, and since 2003 has been a Professor (and now Associate Dean) at the University of California’s Berkeley School of Law.

I got to know Professor Liu through his writings. With Pam Karlan and Chris Schroeder he wrote Keeping Faith With The Constitution, a remarkable book (it's all there, online, free) on proper constitutional interpretation, explaining to the general public how to understand the Constitution as "a basic charter of government whose practical meaning arises from the continual adaptation of its enduring text and principles to the conditions and challenges facing each generation."

At a minimum, Goodwin Liu deserves the same up-or-down vote that any judicial nominee not presenting "extraordinary circumstances" warrants.  But if you don't believe me, ask Ken Starr, who wrote Sen. Leahy to say that  “Goodwin Liu is a person of great intellect, accomplishment, and integrity, and he is exceptionally well-qualified to serve on the court of appeals.”  And as the Sacramento Bee notes today:

With some of their stands on immigration, Republicans have alienated wide swaths of Latino voters.

With their stands on President Obama's judicial picks, will they similarly alienate Asian Americans?...

[Liu] is exceptionally well qualified for an appeals court seat. The son of Taiwanese immigrants who grew up in Sacramento, he went on to become a Rhodes scholar and clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He is a highly respected constitutional scholar and is the recipient of UC Berkeley's highest teaching award.

Yet rather than labeling him as unqualified, Republicans appear to be opposing his nomination because he is too qualified, and might give Obama the chance to nominate the first Asian American to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That's a dangerous game for the GOP. The Senate could avoid it by confirming Liu.

It takes seven Republican Senators to break the filibuster; eleven of them broke ranks last week to allow the confirmation of trial lawyer Jack McConnell to the Rhode Island District Court.  If one of them is your Senator -- Alexander (TN), Brown (MA), Chambliss (GA), Collins (ME), Graham (SC), Isakson (GA), Kirk (IL), McCain (AZ), Murkowski (AK), Snowe (ME) and Thune (SD) -- call the Senate at (202) 224-3121 and ask your Senator to allow Goodwin Liu to have an up-or-down vote.  [Argh: Graham, Isakson and McCain announced Wednesday afternoon that they will support a filibuster. Jim Webb, meanwhile, will vote to end the filibuster, but against confirmation.]

More at Jonathan Singer's ConfirmGoodwin.com.

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