Published April 16, 2010
Republican senators called into question Goodwin Liu's temperament as a possible judge, blasting the controversial 9th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee during his confirmation hearing Friday over statements he made about Supreme Court Judge Samuel Alito's "vision of America."
At the time of Judge Alito's confirmation process Liu was quoted as saying that "in Judge Alito's America, the police may shoot unarmed Americans ... the FBI may install a camera where you sleep ... an all white jury may convict a black man to death."
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the professor's views "represent the very vanguard of what I would call intellectual judicial activism."
"I see it as very vicious, emotional, racist charge," added Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
Liu acknowledged that he used "unnecessarily colorful language" during Alito's confirmation, adding that he has "the highest regard for Justice Alito's intellect," and noting Alito's shared immigrant background.
Liu, an unabashed liberal who is currently the associate dean of the University of California at Berkeley law school, carries an impressive resume, but Republicans have taken exception with what they say are activist statements from the nominee as well as a lack of courtroom experience.
Liu is the son of Taiwanese doctors who were recruited decades ago to the United States to treat underserved populations, noted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. She said Liu's parents imbued in him an appreciation for freedoms in America, not available in then-militant Taiwan.
Liu's parents, along with many of his family and friends, were present Friday for the hearing.
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said efforts to cast Liu as racist detract from the discussion are "outrageous." He said they are "strawmen kind of complaints" not based in reality.
"I would hope we could talk about the law and not others things," Leahy said.
Liu apologized for sending Senate Judiciary Committee members an incomplete portfolio about himself and said he'd do whatever he could to win the committee's trust.
The committee's hearing Friday is widely regarded as the first chapter of the upcoming Supreme Court fight to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
Addressing the more than 100 items missing from the professor's original submission to the committee for its background investigation, Liu, who made no opening statement, apologized right away.
"I'm sorry that the list is long, and I'm sorry I missed most of those the first time," he said.
But Sessions grilled Liu hard, noting that some of the items submitted in the recent supplement to Liu's committee questionnaire, were first found by bloggers.
"I would like to do anything I can to earn the trust of members of committee," Liu said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the panel, said it's a double-standard for Republicans to criticize a nominee with liberal views, since GOP presidents have traditionally nominated conservative activists for the federal bench.
In separate questioning, Liu said he would have "no problem" with assigning the death penalty as a punishment and said he would "absolutely" feel bound by the precedents of the Supreme Court."
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School graduate, Liu clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
The committee delayed this confirmation hearing twice, at the request of Republicans, but Sessions was quick to note that he and fellow Republicans feel the hearing is still being rushed, saying that a mere 28 days lapsed between nomination and confirmation. Under President George W. Bush, Sessions said, an average of 247 days passed before hearings.
Fox News' Trish Turner contributed to this report.