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Obama Judicial Pick Goodwin Liu Withdraws

Goodwin Liu, appointed by President Obama to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is withdrawing his nomination. He is the first Obama judicial nominee to fall victim to an overt GOP filibuster.

While Republicans have dragged their feet for many months on some judicial nominees, Liu's appointment was the first in which they hung together to block an up-or-down vote. Last week, Democrats fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to cut off the filibuster, with all but one Republican voting to block a vote.

Now, Liu, a 40-year-old liberal Berkeley law professor and associate dean, has written to the president that he is withdrawing because there is little prospect that the Senate will ever vote on his nomination, and because, as he put it, there is a "desperate need" for judges to fill the existing vacancies on the 9th Circuit, which covers California and eight other Western states.

With Liu's withdrawal, there are three vacancies on the 9th Circuit and no nominees for two of those seats.

The fate of the Liu nomination is a bitter disappointment to liberals who saw him as the liberal version of the many brilliant conservatives appointed to the lower courts, and even the Supreme Court, by previous Republican presidents. But Republicans painted Liu as a radical, noting in particular that he had testified against President George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Although Roberts and Alito were subsequently confirmed, Republicans saw Liu's testimony as unduly harsh and personal, and when his own nomination came to the Senate floor years later, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky exerted considerable pressure on his troops to make sure that there would be no up-or-down vote.

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