Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Goodwin Liu on Wednesday again apologized for a verbal volley he projected at Samuel Alito during Alito’s Supreme Court nomination hearing in 2006.
“I think the language that I used was unduly harsh, it was provocative and it was unnecessary,” said Liu, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who was making his second appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee as nominee for the bench – and his second apology to Alito.
President Barack Obama first nominated Liu in February 2010, but Senate Republicans – objecting that Liu is too liberal – have blocked his confirmation.
In 2006, Liu said of Alito: “[His] record envisions an America where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from running away with a stolen purse; where federal agents may point guns at ordinary citizens during a raid, even after no sign of resistance; where the FBI may install a camera where you sleep on the promise that they won’t turn it on unless an informant is in the room; where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man, absent a multiple regression analysis showing discrimination; and where police may search what a warrant permits, and then some.”
Liu said Wednesday he should have left those remarks out of his testimony. ”I think that the last paragraph of that testimony is not an appropriate way to describe Justice Alito as a person or his views,” he said.
Republicans said they feared that Liu would move the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, widely regarded as the most liberal of the federal circuits, further to the left. ”I am concerned about his understanding and appreciation of the proper role of a judge in our system of checks and balances,” Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top panel Republican, said. “I want to make certain, as with all nominees, that personal agendas and political ideologies will not be brought into the courtroom.”
Liu said as a legal scholar, he is called to be a commentator on the law, making critical and provocative arguments. But the nominee said he understands that a judge should be favorable to the existing law.
“If I were fortunate enough to be confirmed in this process, it would not be my role to bring any particular theory of constitutional interpretation to the job of an intermediate appellate judge,” Liu said. “The duty of a circuit judge is to faithfully follow the Supreme Court’s instructions on matters of constitutional interpretation, not any particular theory.”
Liu has spent almost a year waiting for a vote by the full Senate.
Obama first nominated Liu for the post in February 2010 and again in September 2010 and January 2011. The Senate sent his nomination back to the White House twice because the chamber did not hold votes on Liu before adjournments.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chaired the nomination hearing, said it doesn’t appear that Liu got “a fair shake.”
“I actually think you’ll be, if you get there, a fine appellate court judge,” Feinstein said. “And I think this is really hard because you see the polarization that exists. Whether we can overcome it or not, I don’t know.”