Constitutional Law

The Goodwin Liu Hearings, Take Two

|

University of California, Berkley law professor Goodwin Liu was back before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Nominated by President Barack Obama in 2010 to fill a vacancy on the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Liu's confirmation fizzled out last year so Obama renominated him. Depending on who you ask, Liu is either a mainstream legal scholar or a dangerous judicial activist. He's definitely no constitutional originalist, having written that what matters for judicial decision-making "is not how the Constitution would have been applied at the founding, but rather how it should be applied today…in light of changing needs, conditions and understandings of our society."

But that doesn't mean the legal right is uniformly opposed to his nomination. At the Huffington Post, Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush's White House who worked on both the John Roberts and Samuel Alito Supreme Court nominations, calls Liu "exceptionally qualified, measured, and mainstream" and points out that he has been endorsed by former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr, Institute for Justice co-founder Clint Bolick, and a number of other notables. As Painter writes:

Liu's Republican supporters also include William T. Coleman, Jr., former Secretary of Transportation under President Ford and one of President Bush's appointees to the Court of Military Commission Review (Liu is a "bright, intelligent and understanding person" and "will become an outstanding judge on the Ninth Circuit."); John Yoo, former Justice Department attorney under President Bush ("for a Democratic nominee, he's a very good choice."); and Tom Campbell, former congressman, law professor, and business school dean ("Goodwin will bring scholarly distinction and a strong reputation for integrity, fair-mindedness, and collegiality to the Ninth Circuit.").

Ironically, one of the biggest roadblocks may be Liu's own unsavory role in previous judicial confirmation battles. In 2006 Liu testified against Samuel Alito's confirmation, telling the Senate that Alito "envisions an America where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from running away with a stolen purse" and "where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man, absent a multiple regression analysis showing discrimination." As David Ingram reports at the blog of The Legal Times, those words came back to haunt Liu yesterday:

Liu was asked about the 2006 statement several times as he testified during his second confirmation hearing for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. In one exchange, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) asked, "Is that a case of poor judgment? Or is it a case of just lack of knowledge and insight?"

"Senator, it was a case of poor judgment," Liu responded.

At another point, Liu said his conclusion about Alito was "unduly harsh" and inappropriate. "I should have omitted that paragraph," Liu said, in response to a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). "And quite frankly, senator, I understand now more than I did then that strong language like that is not very helpful in this process."

NEXT: To Surly, With Love: Are Teachers Overpaid?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If Ken Starr supports him, then I don’t. What a statist, “look-till-I-damned-well-find-something” clusterfuckmonger Starr was/is…

    1. I was thinking the same thing about John Yoo.

  2. “”””I understand now more than I did then that strong language like that is not very helpful in this process.”””

    Translated, I should have lied about my opinions until I get appointed as a judge and then my opinions would be law.

  3. “where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man, absent a multiple regression analysis showing discrimination.”

    Because assuming all white people are racist isn’t racist at all.

    1. Lacist!

  4. How does he feel about man-boy love? That’s my litmus test.

  5. The only endorsement that piques my interest is Clint Bolick.

    I’m having a hard time understanding why a limited government guy like him endorsing a living Constitution guy like Liu.

    1. “But increasingly I find that nothing can be taken for granted, or considered self-evident, among supposed libertarians. Indeed, Clint Bolick, one of the leading libertarian legal theoreticians and activists has written a book for Cato, rather astoundingly looking around at today’s America and concluding that the real tyranny, the real menace to our liberty, is not the federal Leviathan, not Congress or the Imperial Executive or the increasingly totalitarian despots-for-life who constitute the federal judiciary, no, not these. To the contrary, that the real menace to liberty nowadays are grassroots local governments.”

      –Murray Rothbard

      1. So? That quote in no way disputes that Clint Bolick is not a libertarian or a limited-government guy. It is self-evident that grassroots local governments can limit liberty. Indeed, some of the worst invasions of liberty *are* perpetuated by local governments.

        However, I do strongly believe that things would be even worse if those issues were handled at a state or national level.

    2. The I-“Fuck Eminent Domain”-J’s Bolick endorsed Liu? Somebody get Clint on the phone.

  6. For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar.

  7. I understand now more than I did then that strong language like that is not very helpful in this process.

    I too understand I should not hit my thumb with a hammer after I hit my thumb with a hammer. A man with such brilliant analysis of his partisan fuckup will fit right in with this administration’s legacy.

  8. …is not how the Constitution would have been applied at the founding, but rather how it should be applied today…in light of changing needs, conditions and understandings of our society.

    Who doesn’t like the idea that central document framing our system of government, the text that serves as the block against the state from removing any citizen’s liberty, goes with the flow?

    Uncertainty is what you want when you’re engaging in private enterprise. It’s fun to guess whether agents of the state will decide that what you’re doing is not what they think you should be doing, and will be given the legitimate power to stop you from doing that thing.

  9. Yeah, I’m guessing the part about amending the Constitution, you know, in light of changing needs, conditions and understandings of our society, must have fallen off of Liu’s copy.

    Essentially, what the living Constitutionalists are doing is arrogating to the judiciary the authority to amend the Constitution. Thus, we get horseshit like eminent domain for “public purpose”, not public use, the commercial speech exception to the First Amendment, etc. ad nauseum.

    1. A living Constitution is a dead one. If the Humpty Dumptys in black robes say it means what they say it means, it’s just an old piece of parchment.

  10. OK man, that just does not make any sense at all to me dude.

    http://www.Privacy-Web.tk

  11. “Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s White House…”

    The only job to be ashamed of is a job poorly done–and how’d you like to go through life being known as the former chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s White House?

    I’d rather tell people I was a used car salesman!

  12. Fuck this communist troll. Changing needs of society, eh? What fucking use is a Constitution then douchebag? You want to run a multiple regression analysis for a murder case? Why don’t you fucking look at the violent crime stats to see how many young black males are implicated? Fuck you, you piece of shit

  13. “Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s White House who worked on both the John Roberts and Samuel Alito Supreme Court nominations, calls Liu “exceptionally qualified, measured, and mainstream” and points out that he has been endorsed by former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr”

    Wow, that’s suppose to be considered helpful to the guy!?!!????!

  14. If those comments in the last paragraph don’t tell you everything you need to know about putting this guy in power, then there’s nothing else to say. Everyone’s all penitent and reasonable when they get in front of these committees. It’s high time to judge their body of work, not their current testimony.

    What’s amazing is that “I should have omitted that paragraph” likely means he had written it out beforehand, thought about it, and still saw fit to include it in a prepared statement. This was hardly an error of passion or hot-headedness.

  15. But that was way back in 2006, when he was only 36 years old. C’mon, you have to forgive him some youthful indiscretions.

    Like formulating a political smear in writing and not having the brains to realize that it might come back to haunt him later.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.