Before he became a law professor and associate dean, Goodwin Liu clerked for two judges and spent two years as an associate in the Washington office of O'Melveny & Myers. He's also taken on cases while remaining at the University of California, Berkeley.
Republican senators asked Liu (above) today whether that's enough courtroom experience to qualify him to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Under questioning from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Liu acknowledged at his confirmation hearing that he has never tried a case to judgment. He said he has never argued before the Supreme Court and has argued once before an appellate panel, the D.C. Circuit.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked Liu rhetorically whether he’s applying for the “right job.” He said a committee of the American Bar Association was inconsistent to unanimously rate Liu “well-qualified” when it gave a lower rating to Judge Frank Easterbrook, a former academic now on the 7th Circuit.
“It appears to be a double standard,” Cornyn said.
Liu, 39, did not respond, but Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) defended his record. He noted that Easterbrook was confirmed, as were two other Republican circuit nominees with similarly little experience in private practice: Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson of the 4th Circuit and Judge Kimberly Moore of the Federal Circuit.
“Let’s leave these straw-men kind of complaints out of it,” Leahy said.
In response to a question from Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Liu recalled fondly his clerkships for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and for Judge David Tatel of the D.C. Circuit. Of Tatel, he said. “He always sent us down to the first floor of the courthouse to read the record — read the record of what happened in the court below…. I think that that perspective has always stayed with me.”
Earlier: Liu Contrite as Senate Testimony Begins.
UPDATE (1:29 p.m.): At one point, Liu spoke glowingly of his time at O'Melveny. “I learned, I think, a respect for the process of litigation,” he said. He added, while smiling, “I also learned what it was like to bill a lot of hours from time to time, but that is part of what is expected of any lawyer who takes on a client.”
Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.