Bench Memos

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Goodwin Liu’s Ambition Exceeds Even His Inexperience


I’ve commented before on Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu’s woeful inexperience, which should have had him struggling to avoid a “not qualified” rating by the ABA.  I’ll note that a story in today’s Washington Post manages to overstate Liu’s meager experience, as it asserts that he “worked only a few years in private practice.”  In fact, Liu worked as a junior associate at O’Melveny & Myers for less than two years (21 months).  (He also worked as a contract attorney for a law firm for some weeks before he clerked for Justice Ginsburg.)

As inexperienced as Liu is, his ambition vastly exceeds his inexperience.  Two weeks before the November 2008 presidential election, Liu took part in an American Constitution Society event,* “Counting to Five: What the 2008 Election Will Mean for the Supreme Court,” in which he stressed that Barack Obama, if elected president, should take care to nominate federal appellate judges who would be young enough to be groomed for the Supreme Court.  He also emphasized the need for the American Constitution Society and other liberal groups to “hold the administration’s feet to the fire”—i.e., to press for the nomination of very liberal judges.  [Update (3/31):  Liu failed to include this event on his Senate questionnaire response and included it in a supplemental response only after Republican staffers informed his vetters of the omission.  (As with several other omissions of Liu’s, credit goes to blogger Morgen of Verum Serum for the discovery.)]

In case it wasn’t clear that Liu had himself in mind as a young appellate nominee to be groomed for the Supreme Court:  Just weeks after President Obama’s election, Liu, barely a decade out of law school, began compiling his dossier for a judicial nomination.  (So it would appear, at least, from the print date on several of the publications that Liu submitted.)  Indeed, Liu’s questionnaire response reveals that he met with the White House counsel “regarding my interest in serving as a judge” as early as February 6, 2009.  (Given the fact that the vacancy to which he has been nominated was created by law as of January 2009, I have to think that the delay since then was necessary to engineer the ABA’s ridiculous rating of “well qualified.”)

* I haven’t yet had time to view the video of the event and am instead relying on the summary of someone who has.

Tags: Whelan


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