Updated Feb. 25
Ending a months-long drought of federal appellate court nominees, President Barack Obama today nominated a professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and a federal district judge in Connecticut to fill vacancies in the 9th and 2nd circuits.
Goodwin Liu, a former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who is recognized as an expert on constitutional law and education policy and civil rights, was tapped for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. There are no active Asian-American jurists on any circuit court. Liu, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, served on the education policy and agency review teams of the Obama-Biden transition.
Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice, said the Liu nomination "will be the most high profile confirmation fight that we have seen under Obama" since the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Levey said the nomination hearing could be a run-up to a Supreme Court battle, if a high court vacancy opens later this year.
Obama also nominated Judge Robert Chatigny of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut for a spot on the 2nd Circuit. Chatigny, who has served on the federal bench since 1994, was chief judge in Connecticut from 2003 to 2009. He is a 1978 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. Chatigny was an associate for two years at Williams & Connolly in Washington before returning to Connecticut in 1984.
Williams & Connolly partner Brendan Sullivan Jr. called Chatigny a "fabulous lawyer" and said he will be a "great credit" to the 2nd Circuit. Chief Judge Alvin Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut praised Chatigny, saying he is an "outstanding choice who will make an excellent contribution to our court of appeals."
Obama said in a statement that Liu and Chatigny "have proven themselves to be not only first-rate legal minds but faithful public servants. It is with full confidence in their ability, integrity, and independence that I nominate them to the bench of the United States Court of Appeals.”
The nominations mark the first since this past November, when Obama nominated two state court judges to fill vacancies on the 4th Circuit. White House officials have said they planned to pick up the pace of judicial nominations. In October, Obama nominated Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for a slot on the 2nd Circuit.
More after the jump.
Liu’s name has been floated for nearly a year for a spot on the 9th Circuit. Last March, he told The Recorder in California: "There are many talented people who are qualified to serve on the Ninth Circuit and frankly I'm honored that some people would consider me in that group.”
Liu was among four clerks of Asian heritage who worked at the Supreme Court in the October 2000 term.
In 2001, Liu, a graduate of Yale Law School, joined the appellate litigation practice at O’Melveny & Myers in the firm’s Washington office, where he worked on antitrust, white collar and insurance matters, among other areas, according to his Berkeley web biography. He went into academia in 2003.
Last May, he wrote Keeping Faith With the Constitution with professors Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School and Christopher Schroeder of Duke Law School. (Schroeder’s subsequent nomination to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy has received bipartisan support.) The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, where Liu chairs the board of directors, published the book.
“I am very humbled by this nomination and grateful to President Obama for this honor,” Liu said in a statement today. “I also thank California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer for their support and confidence in me, and I look forward to working with the Senate Judiciary Committee in the confirmation process.”
Holly Fujie, a partner at Buchalter Nemer in Los Angeles and immediate past president of the California State Bar, said in a statement that Liu’s “breadth of experience” will make him an “invaluable addition” to the 9th Circuit.