President Barack Obama on Wednesday renominated a Cal law school dean to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, weeks after Senate leaders cut a deal not to seek his confirmation in the final hours of the last Congress.
The president first nominated Goodwin Liu, associate dean and professor at the UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall Law School, in February. Despite GOP opposition right out of the gate, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing in April and voted 12-7 along party lines in May to send Liu to the full Senate for confirmation. But amid filibuster threats, the Senate sent the nomination back to the president in August, refusing to debate and vote before adjourning for its monthlong recess. The president resubmitted his nomination in September, and the Judiciary Committee once again sent the nomination to the Senate floor.
In the final days of last month's lame-duck session, Liu, 40, of Berkeley, was one of several nominations on which Senate Democrats committed not to seek a vote in return for Senate Republicans lifting a blockade on at least 19 others. Senate sources at the time said Liu probably would be renominated, as he'd recently met and made ground with rank-and-file Republicans who might be more inclined to confirm him this year.
The GOP didn't care for Liu's liberal credentials: He chaired the progressive American Constitution Society's board of directors; he's a former member of the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Chinese for Affirmative Action; and he served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition's education policy and agency review teams. Nor did some conservatives care for his belief that judges should interpret the Constitution not according to "how its general principles would have been applied in 1789 or 1868, but rather how those principles should be applied today in order to preserve their power and meaning in light of the concerns, conditions, and evolving norms of our society," as described in a 2009 book he co-authored, "Keeping Faith With the Constitution."
Richard Painter, President George W. Bush's chief ethics lawyer and now a University of Minnesota law professor supporting Liu's confirmation, last month said Senate Republicans cast Liu as an arch-liberal activist mainly as a political "tit-for-tat" because he'd spoken against confirming Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito.
Obama also Wednesday renominated U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward Chen, who sits in San Francisco and lives in Tiburon, and Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Edward Davilla to serve as district judges for California's Northern District; Chen originally was nominated in August 2009 and Davilla in May 2010.
"I am so pleased that the president has renominated these highly qualified individuals, and I will keep working hard for their confirmation," U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Wednesday.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was out of commission Wednesday, undergoing knee surgery in San Francisco, but her office offered a Dec. 21 floor statement in which she had touted Liu's and Chen's qualifications and urged an up-or-down vote for each.