Goodwin Liu Earns Highest Possible Rating from ABA

The American Bar Association, which plays an integral role in the confirmation process through its review of nominees' records, has given Goodwin Liu (my professor, whose nomination to the 9th Circuit I wrote about yesterday) its highest possible rating (.pdf): A unanimous "well-qualified." The wingers aren't happy.

According to the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary’s explanation of its standards for rating judicial nominees, “a prospective nominee to the federal bench ordinarily should have at least twelve years’ experience in the practice of law.” Further, “the Committee recognizes that substantial courtroom and trial experience as a lawyer or trial judge is important.”

Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu hasn’t even been out of law school for twelve years yet (he graduated from Yale law school in the late spring of 1998), and he’s only been a member of a state bar since May 1999. His entire practice of law appear to consist of two years or so in appellate litigation, so it would appear that he has zero “trial experience as a lawyer.” Nor, of course, does he have any experience as a trial judge.

Despite all this, the ABA committee has somehow seen fit to give Liu its highest rating of “well qualified.” What a joke.

Was it "a joke" when Republican President Gerald Ford, at the urging of Ronald Reagan, nominated Anthony Kennedy, then age 38, to a seat on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit? Was it "a joke" when President Reagan nominated Alex Kozinski, then age 35 -- just 10 years out of law school -- to the 9th Circuit? How about when George W. Bush nominated the then-38 year old Brett Cavanaugh to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit? Did the conservatives speak out then? Senator Orrin Hatch, the former Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, certainly did not, defending the selection of Cavanaugh by noting that many Senators "began their service in their 30's if not barely age 30." Or do age criticisms only apply to progressive, not conservative, jurists? That is, the these extra-constitutional rules (there is no age restriction for judicial nominations anywhere in the Constitution) only apply when the Democrats are in office, not Republicans?

Tags: Barack Obama, Judiciary, Judicial Nominations, Goodwin Liu (all tags)


1 Comment


One of my law school classmates was nominated by Bush to be an appellate judge... at the ripe old age of 39, the exact same age as Prof. Liu.  He had more experience as a practicing lawyer than Liu, but he didn't have Liu's brilliant academic reputation, so that sort of evens out.  Either way, I don't recall either the Democrats or the Republicans having much of a problem with his confirmation, and that was just a couple years ago.

by Steve M 2010-02-25 06:46PM | 0 recs


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