Obama renominates Goodwin Liu to 9th Circuit

Goodwin LiuPresident Barack Obama today re-nominated Goodwin Liu, associate dean and professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, weeks after Senate leaders cut a deal not to seek his confirmation in the final hours of the last Congress.

The President nominated Liu in February, and although there was GOP opposition right out of the gate, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing in April and voted 12-7 along party lines in May to send Liu to the full Senate for confirmation. But amid threats of a filibuster, the Senate sent the nomination back to the President in August, refusing to debate and vote before adjourning for its month-long recess. The president resubmitted his nomination in September, and the Judiciary Committee once again voted 12-7 that month to send the nomination to a floor vote.

The GOP didn’t care for Liu’s liberal credentials – he chairs the progressive American Constitution Society’s board of directors; he’s a former member of the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Chinese for Affirmative Action; and he served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition’s education policy and agency review teams – or for his belief that judges should interpret the Constitution not according to “how its general principles would have been applied in 1789 or 1868, but rather how those principles should be applied today in order to preserve their power and meaning in light of the concerns, conditions, and evolving norms of our society.”

Richard Painter, who was President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer and now is a University of Minnesota law professor supporting Liu’s confirmation, last month said Senate Republicans cast Liu as an arch-liberal activist mainly as a political “tit-for-tat” because he’d spoken out against the confirmations of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Obama also today re-nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward Chen of San Francisco, and Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Edward Davila, to serve as District Judges for California’s Northern District; Chen originally was nominated in August 2009 and Davilla in May 2010.

UPDATE @ 3:27 P.M.: “I am so pleased that the President has renominated these highly qualified individuals, and I will keep working hard for their confirmation,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was out of commission Wednesday, undergoing knee surgery in San Francisco, but her office offered the floor statement she made Dec. 21 in support of confirming Liu and Chen, touting their bona fides and urging that each deserves an up-or-down vote.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W

    Liu must be a glutton for punishment to allow his name to be placed in nomination again. I suspect it will be difficult even to keep the Senate Dems lined up — since 24 of them are up for re-election in 2012, with many of those being from toss-up states. But if Obama and Harry Reid can make it happen, I’m all for it. Kenneth Starr endorsed the guy based on his qualifications.

  • scott g

    I’m really glad that Dean Liu, Judges Chen and Davila, the Senators, and the administration aren’t giving up on these excellent nominations. It is absolutely critical that the Obama administration get some capable centrist (dare we imagine even registered Democrat) jurists on the federal bench, if only to provide some bulwark against the tide of hard-right judicial appointments we saw under the failed Bush administration.

    I’m really angry that the Republicans have blocked votes on their confirmations. It’s especially appalling that they would refuse to allow a vote on Dean Liu’s nomination in answer to his having urged ‘no’ votes against Alito and Roberts. But par for the GOP course, I guess, that they’d think nothing of using illegitimate means to punish perfectly legitimate political expression they oppose and wish to suppress.

  • Elwood

    It’s called politics, Scotty.

    It’s hard ball.

    And both parties play it.