White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined an offer today to characterize the Obama administration’s first judicial nominee. But Gibbs said at his daily press briefing that the president is standing by his controversial pledge to consider the breadth of a nominee’s background.
Gibbs told reporters that, in choosing federal judges, the White House will value “a wide variety of past experience and having the ability to empathize and walk in someone’s shoes.” Conservatives have sharply criticized similar comments. As recently as Monday, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia voiced his disapproval.
Here’s the full text of Gibbs’ remarks, via the White House transcript.
Q: Thanks, Robert. The President made his first judicial pick today, David Hamilton. And in sort of discussing it, a senior administration official talked about the President’s desire to be — to select judges who were empathetic to real people — that was something he talked about on the campaign. This is something that some — particularly conservative critics have an issue with because they wonder how that wouldn’t butt up against having to work within the rule of law, follow the rule of law. And I’m wondering if you can address that, and also to tell us whether you would consider Judge Hamilton to be a moderate.
MR. GIBBS: You know, let me resist the temptation to get involved in labels, but understand that what I think you’re referring to from a senior administration official is something that he’s enumerated many times in the past, and I would point you specifically to statements that he made surrounding confirmation votes for Justices Roberts and —
MR. GIBBS: Alito. I almost said Scalia and I knew he wasn’t in the Senate at that time. But that the President talked about there are — the law will lead you to pretty clear conclusions on a vast majority of cases in interpreting either previous law, as well as the Constitution, but that — and again, I’d point you to this, and we can certainly send it to you — he’ll be far more eloquent than I am in discussing the notion that there are cases that judges, particularly at this level, see that requires on — regardless of which label you pick up, whether it’s progressive, or conservative, or moderate, or what have you, that your own empathy and value system leads you to make a conclusion one way or the other.
The President believes that in making decisions on those justices, and in going forward and making judicial picks, that a wide variety of past experience and having the ability to empathize and walk in someone’s shoes provides valuable perspective for somebody making important decisions from the bench.