Bench Memos

Stuart Taylor on Goodwin Liu

In his new National Journal column (temporarily available here), Stuart Taylor identifies Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu as the “most resolutely liberal of President Obama’s judicial nominees”:  Liu’s “sweeping vision of court-ordered social justice, [which] though within the mainstream of legal academic opinion, puts him markedly to the ideological left of all 41 Senate Republicans, at least half of the Democrats, and 80 percent or more of voters, I’d guess.”  Crediting my extensive posts, Taylor summarizes Liu’s record on a range of issues and concludes that Liu’s record “provide[s] senators who strongly disagree ample justification for voting against him.” 

You can expect Liu’s defenders to take out of context Taylor’s quip that Liu is an “admirable candidate.”  But here’s the full context for Taylor’s quip (emphasis added): 

Putting aside his ideology and his less than two years of legal experience outside the academy, Liu is an admirable candidate for the federal Appeals Court seat in California that he will fill if confirmed. The Rhodes scholar and former law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has an inspiring son-of-Taiwanese-immigrants life story. Plus, people like him.

As Taylor makes clear, there is no reason to put aside Liu’s ideology and inexperience, and the narrow grounds on which Taylor would find Liu an “admirable candidate” are the same that I’ve acknowledged (e.g., in the second paragraph of this NRO essay). 

I will highlight that Taylor’s column makes a broader hope-filled proposal that the Liu nomination could somehow trigger a broader Senate consensus in support of straight up-or-down votes on judicial nominees.  As I’ve repeatedly made clear, I continue to support straight up-or-down votes, but I think that the only way that the Liu nomination might trigger a broader consensus would be if enough Democrats join Republicans in defeating Liu’s nomination.