In a classic example of “what’s good for thee but not for me,” Berkeley law professor and former Obama Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu seems poised to accept an appointment to the California Supreme Court this month—even though that would violate his own radical advice to others to give up their coveted seats to underrepresented minorities. Liberal hypocrisy knows few limits, but this story just keeps getting more humorous with every chapter.
Last May, Liu’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit court was defeated when a bi-partisan Senate filibuster could not be broken and at least two Democratic senators indicated they would not vote for him. As Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley explained in a letter to President Obama, senators were particularly concerned with “his controversial writings and speeches; an activist judicial philosophy; his lack of judicial temperament; his troublesome testimony and lack of candor before the committee; and his limited experience.”
Had Liu received the Ninth Circuit appointment, he would have been the first Asian-American on that court. The result deeply disappointed left-leaning groups and Liu supporters, such as the American Constitution Society, who see diversity as an end in itself, at least when it supports their agendas (the same groups were happy to filibuster Miguel Estrada’s nomination during the previous administration, fearing the brilliant, conservative Hispanic lawyer might eventually be elevated to the High Court).
But unlike Estrada, who continues his distinguished legal practice, the much younger Liu apparently sought another judicial post where his crazy views would not be a handicap. Fellow traveler Governor Jerry Brown obliged by nominating Liu to the California Supreme Court a few weeks ago. Although Liu’s credentials from Stanford, Yale Law School, and a Rhodes Scholarship are impressive, the citizens of California have every reason to be concerned that his approach to law is little more than extreme liberal activism dressed up in legal-sounding methods.
As Ed Whelan’s great series of posts explained, Liu’s words and actions are riddled with extreme liberal nostrums. For example, asserting his belief in compensating today’s African-Americans for the mistreatment of their slave ancestors, Liu pontificated:
[A]ll of us, whatever our lineage, whatever our ancestry, whatever our complicity, still have a moral duty to . . . make things right. What are we willing to give up to make things right? Because it’s gonna require us to give up something, whether it is the seat at Harvard, the seat at Princeton. Or is it gonna require us to give up our segregated neighborhoods, our segregated schools? Is it gonna require us to give up our money?
The obvious question: what exactly did Liu give up? It wasn’t his seat at Stanford. It wasn’t his seat at Yale Law School. It wasn’t his Rhodes Scholarship. It wasn’t his clerkship with Justice Ginsburg. It wasn’t his professorship at Berkeley. But his worst “offense” is yet to come.
By accepting Brown’s nomination, Liu agreed to replace the only Hispanic on the California Supreme Court. That court also has no African-Americans. It is widely reported that Governor Brown passed over highly qualified Latino candidates, including Thomas Saenz, Christopher David Ruiz Cameron, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, and Maria Rivera, as well as a veteran African-American appeals court justice, Martin Jenkins.
This has outraged many of the racial bean counters, including Victor Acevedo, president of the Mexican-American Bar Association, who argued the nominee “should have been a Latino and somebody who was native to Southern California.” The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials also criticized the nomination, saying, “[i]t is a grave oversight for the Supreme Court not to reflect the full diversity of our state . . . Justice is best served when the perspectives of all Californians are represented.” Even more irritating to the supposed “diversity” crowd, Liu would become the fourth Asian-American on the court of seven justices, transforming it into the first Asian-dominated state supreme court in the nation, outside Hawaii.
To add irony to insult, readers should recall Liu’s criticism of Chief Justice Roberts’ appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2005 article in which he scolded President Bush for not choosing a “consensus candidate.” As one of the most controversial nominees, to both conservatives and liberals, Liu is hardly a “consensus candidate” himself.
Finally, Californians should retain little confidence in Governor Brown’s appointments to the state supreme court. As The Wall Street Journal notes, “[d]uring his previous stints as governor . . . Mr. Brown’s track record on judicial appointments was notoriously problematic.” In fact, California citizens removed three of seven Brown-appointed justices via retention elections, including Chief Justice Rose Bird. Since then, no California justices have been recalled. Of course, that could change.
The Commission on Judicial Appointments will meet on August 31 to consider Liu’s appointment, and it is expected to approve the nomination. If confirmed, California voters will have their opportunity to recall Liu via retention election in 2014.
Brooks Spears is a law student and Center for Legal & Judicial Studies Intern. Click here for more information on interning at Heritage.