Conservatives had already begun working to oppose the nomination of Berkeley Law professor Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but Liu may have handed them some serious ammunition. Liu was forced to apologize today after the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee publicly scolded the nominee for dozens of major omissions from his required questionnaire, including work with groups like La Raza. Senator Jeff Sessions said that these omissions were “serious” and put his confirmation in jeopardy:
In a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Associate Dean and Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law Goodwin Liu, a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, apologized for dozens of omissions from his Senate questionnaire.
The “original submission of my Senate Questionnaire on February 24 inadvertently omitted a number of items,” Liu wrote to Sens. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont. “I would like to offer a sincere and personal apology to you, to the Ranking Member” – Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. – “and to the entire Committee for the omissions in my original submission.” …
The explanation was not received warmly by Sessions and the other Republicans on the panel, including Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, Jon Kyl of Arizona, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
“At best, this nominee’s extraordinary disregard for the Committee’s constitutional role demonstrates incompetence,” Sessions said in a letter to Leahy, adding that “at worst, it creates the impression that he knowingly attempted to hide his most controversial work from the Committee. Professor Liu’s unwillingness to take seriously his obligation to complete these basic forms is potentially disqualifying and has placed his nomination in jeopardy.”
Some of the omissions include Liu’s commencement speech to UC Berkeley Law, his participation in a presentation entitled “The Fate of Affirmative Action from the O’Connor Court to the Roberts Court,” and his participation in a panel entitled “The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education” at the American Constitution Society’s (ACS) 2004 national convention.
“These are not minor omissions,” Sessions wrote. “A cursory glance at the titles of the events that Professor Liu has omitted from his Questionnaire shows that his participation in and comments during each are crucial to this Committee’s review of his nomination.”
Liu tried passing off many of the omissions as “informal” activities that he considered part of his job as a professor of law. However, the Republicans pointed out what appeared to be rather significant events that Liu failed to mention the first time around. The arrival of the supplemental packet has them demanding a postponement of Liu’s April 16th confirmation hearing to give them time to review the newly-presented material — and to find out what else Liu may have omitted.
Nor is Liu’s the only nomination in potential jeopardy. The nominee to the Second Circuit, Judge Robert Chatigny, has also been less than forthcoming, according to the same letter. The committee requested on March 8th the unpublished opinions of Chatigny and a list of criminal cases where Chatigny departed from sentencing guidelines and an explanation of those decisions. Not only has Chatigny and the Department of Justice failed to provide the material, they haven’t even acknowledged the request almost a month later.
The letter suggests that incompetence is a potential conclusion by committee members for these omissions, and at worst a display of dishonesty and disregard for the role of the committee in the confirmation process. “Professor Liu’s unwillingness to take seriously his obligation to complete these basic forms is potentially disqualifying and has placed his nomination in jeopardy,” the letter warns. Well, perhaps. Democrats certainly have the votes to confirm Liu, but heading into the midterms, they may not want to rush to approve an appointment to the most-overturned circuit of someone who can’t or won’t complete a basic questionnaire for the job.