GOP Launches Attack On Court Nominee Liu
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
On Capitol Hill today, Senate Republicans laid into the liberal law professor President Obama picked for a federal Appeals Court seat on the West Coast. Thirty-nine-year-old Goodwin Liu underwent three hours of grilling at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
NPR's David Welna reports.
DAVID WELNA: California Democrat Dianne Feinstein presided over the vetting of Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu. She, like other Democrats on the judiciary panel, had only words of praise for this son of Taiwanese immigrants who had become a Rhodes Scholar and law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Senator DIANNE FEINSTEIN (Democrat, California): Professor Liu did not learn to speak English until kindergarten because his parents did not want him to speak with an accent. And from that early age on, he has excelled again and again.
WELNA: Liu brought his parents to the hearing along with his wife, 4-month-old son and his 3-year-old daughter. He said he and his wife had been trying to explain to her that he'd been nominated to be a federal judge.
Professor GOODWIN LIU (Nominee, Federal Appellate Court): About three days after my nomination, she said to me, Daddy, are you a judge yet?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Prof. LIU: And I said, well, that's not the way this works.
WELNA: Not in this politically polarized Senate, anyway. Republicans twice postponed earlier confirmation hearings scheduled for Liu. They said they were outraged that he belatedly turned over to the committee more than a hundred documents of speeches and writing.
Texas Republican John Cornyn took him to task.
Senator JOHN CORNYN (Republican, Texas): From my experience as a former trial judge, I will tell you that if a lawyer came into my courtroom and failed to respond completely and accurately to a request from the other side for information and had to be called to task four different times before they finally got the complete and truthful answer, that lawyer would find himself held in contempt of court or worse.
WELNA: Liu said he regretted not finding those documents earlier.
Prof. LIU: I want to express again the fullest commitment that I possibly can to providing this committee with any information that it wants or needs in evaluating my candidacy for the bench.
Sen. CORNYN: Have you actually apologized?
Prof. LIU: I have, senator.
WELNA: Liu has never been a judge, so Republicans focused on his writings. In particular, his testimony at Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's confirmation hearing in 2007. Liu granted he'd used what he called unnecessarily colorful language when he wrote that Alito's record envisions an America where, among other things, a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man.
That prompted this exchange with Arizona Republican Jon Kyl.
Senator JON KYL (Republican, Arizona): I mean, this calls into question your judicial temperament. That's a key consideration for members of this committee. That is not tempered language. I mean, you would acknowledge that, I gather. I hope.
Prof. LIU: Well, senator, that...
Sen. KYL: Would you acknowledge that that is not tempered language?
Prof. LIU: Perhaps not, considered in isolation, senator. But that paragraph comes after 14 pages of quite detailed legal analysis of Judge Alito's opinions and that was the concluding, I believe, penultimate paragraph in that 14-page analysis.
Sen. KYL: Well, I see it as very vicious and emotionally and racially charged, very intemperate. And to me it calls into question your ability to approach and characterize people's positions in a fair and judicious way.
WELNA: Delaware Democrat Ted Kaufman sought to assure Liu this wasn't just about him.
Senator TED KAUFMAN (Democrat, Delaware): Welcome to the Judiciary Committee and the Supreme Court nomination process.
(Soundbite of laughter)
WELNA: The vetting on the Hill is that by blocking a young liberal nominee for the Appeals Court, Republicans may persuade President Obama not to make a similar choice for the Supreme Court.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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