Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, July 28, 2011


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Hearing Set on Liu Nomination to California Supreme Court


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


A confirmation hearing has been set for Aug. 31 to consider Gov. Jerry Brown’s nomination of UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu’s nomination to the state Supreme Court, officials said yesterday.

The hearing is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. in the California Supreme Court Courtroom, in San Francisco.

Liu, 40, was nominated Tuesday to replace Justice Carlos Moreno, who stepped down in February to go into private practice.

The State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation will be asked to consider Brown’s nomination and make a non-binding recommendation to the Commission on Judicial Appointments at the hearing.

Pursuant to Government Code Sec. 12022.5, the commission has up to 90 days after a candidate’s name is submitted to evaluate the candidate and report its conclusions to the governor. The commission, however, can return its findings more expeditiously if it chooses, as it did with the nomination of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was tapped for elevation July 21, 2010 and confirmed at a hearing just over a month later, on Aug. 25.

Liu will be the first judicial nominee to face an all-female hearing panel, which is comprised of the chief justice, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Court of Appeal Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of this district’s Div. Three, the senior presiding justice of the appellate courts.

Brown, during a press conference Tuesday, called Liu “an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar” who is battle-tested to win confirmation after being closely vetted as President Obama’s choice for an open seat on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and “attacked by the best and sharpest politicians in the country.”

Obama nominated Liu in February 2010, but the nomination was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate and expired with the adjournment of Congress. The president nominated him for a second time after the new Legislative season began, but Liu could muster only one Republican vote and a total of 53 votes when 60 were needed to bring his confirmation to a vote. He withdrew his candidacy in May.

Some GOP members who blocked Liu’s nomination said they took exception to written testimony Liu submitted in 2006 opposing the confirmation of Samuel Alito, who went on to win an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Liu had written that Alito was “at the margin, not the mainstream,” as an appellate judge unworthy of serving on the high court

“Judge Alito’s record envisions an America where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from running away with a stolen purse,” Liu wrote.

During his own confirmation process before the U.S. Senate, Liu agreed with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, that submitting that type of testimony “was a case of poor judgment.”

Liu further said he should have omitted that paragraph from his written testimony.

A few Republican senators also said they were troubled by Liu joining 16 other law professors who in 2007 urged the California Supreme Court to strike down the state’s gay marriage ban. The state Supreme Court did end the ban, but later upheld a voter-approved initiative to reinstate it.

Brown said that the high-profile failure of Liu’s nomination before the Senate is how “his strengths and his biography came to my attention.”

Reaction to Brown’s nomination of Liu has also been mixed.

Consumer Attorneys of California President John A. Montevideo praised Liu as “a terrific constitutional scholar who will no doubt prove to be a superlative Supreme Court justice.”

Montevideo, whose group represents plaintiffs’ attorneys, opined the nominee “brings the sort of diverse and reasoned perspective, worldly outlook and broad cultural experience that will allow him to make wise decisions for California for years to come.”

Debra L. Zumwalt, vice president and general counsel for Liu’s undergraduate alma mater, Stanford University, remarked that the nominee is “not only a brilliant legal scholar, but a person of great integrity, fairness, and dedication to public service.”

Liu “is an inspired choice for the California Supreme Court, which will be enriched by his presence,” Zumwalt said.

 San Francisco attorney Dale Minami of Minami Tamaki LLP said the appointment of “someone with the intellect, compassion and integrity of a Goodwin Liu to the greatest Supreme Court in this country is a reflection of Governor Brown’s commitment to justice” and “a remarkable choice.”

Representatives of several influential Latino legal groups however, were less enthusiastic. They had urged Brown to select someone of Hispanic descent since Moreno’s retirement has left the state high court without any member of Hispanic descent.

Thomas Saenz, president of The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said Liu is “a very good lawyer, [and] a strong law professor [who] has a strong belief in civil rights and will make an excellent judge,” but that he was “troubled” by the nomination since “there are many Latino lawyers and judges who were just as qualified.”

Saenz was one of the candidates Latino groups had recommended to Brown, but Saenz said he was never contacted by the governor and was not seriously considered as a candidate.

The Aug. 31 confirmation hearing provides an opportunity for members of the public to weigh in on Liu’s nomination. The deadline for written comment, or to notify the commission that one wishes to speak at the hearing, is 5:00 p.m. on Aug. 24.

Requests to speak must include a summary of the facts on which any testimony or opinion will be based, under the commission’s guidelines.

The commission requested that communications be addressed to the chief justice at 350 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, Attention: Ms. AhMoi Kim, Secretary to the Commission.


Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company