Following the demise of Professor Goodwin Liu’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Jessica Jackson, a student member of the ACS Board, wonders in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle whether “a progressive” can be confirmed to a seat on the federal bench by this Senate.
Even though Liu, a UC Berkeley law school professor and former member of the ACS Board, was supported by conservative lawyers like Kenneth Starr and John Yoo, some of his academic writings proved too progressive for the vast majority of Republican senators who successfully blocked his nomination. (Liu has asked the president to withdraw his nomination).
Jackson, a third-year law student at Santa Clara University, defends Liu’s writings as falling “well within the boundaries of popular thought,” but concludes the Senate’s conservatives apparently were bent on sending a message.
The unfortunate message sent by the Senate conservatives is clear: There is no longer room for those who advocate progress on the federal bench. This lack of judicial diversity in the federal courts frustrates the very purpose of the multiple judicial panels employed by the Ninth Circuit. Without a diverse range of perspectives to draw upon, there is a heightened risk that the application of law will result in a denial of justice.
Ian Millhiser, a blogger for Think Progress Justice, examining the Liu “debacle” details how right-wing Senators distorted the professor’s academic writings. (Liu, as Millhiser points out, is a prolific academic scholar.)
Millhiser, in his Los Angeles Times op-ed, says future presidents remembering the Liu situation are likely to forgo brilliant legal thinkers, who share their thoughts, to fill seats on the federal judiciary. And for young “brilliant” lawyers, Millhiser says the lesson here is that they should reign in their creative impulses. Both outcomes, he says, weaken our democracy.
“In the end, the American people will be much poorer because of the Goodwin Lius of the future will be silenced,” Millhiser writes. “Democracy depends on an informed electorate, and it is better-informed when brilliant voices share their expertise.”
The federal bench has nearly 100 vacancies, with more coming open. For more news, commentary and other resources on the effort to fill court vacancies, visit JudicialNominations.org.