Court Nominee Liu Failed to Disclose Information

Liu photoAmid allegations that President Obama’s appeal court nominee Goodwin Liu omitted extensive information from his senate questionnaire, Republican lawmakers are gearing up to challenge his confirmation at a hearing on Friday.

Liu, a nominee for the ninth circuit court of appeals, neglected to disclose 117 items on his Senate questionnaire, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee said last week. The mandatory questionnaire requires judicial nominees to disclose all organizational affiliations, speaking engagements, published work, and comments they have made to media.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the committee’s chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) last Tuesday, which outlined several of the specific omissions by Liu. These included:

• a commencement speech Liu gave at UC Berkeley Law

• a panel he participated in titled “What the 2008 Election will mean for the Supreme Court”

• his participation in a discussion on Affirmative Action and the Supreme Court

• his participation in a Brown v. Board of Education discussion co-sponsored by La Raza.

Sessions asked that Leahy postpone the confirmation hearing until members had a chance to look over the newfound items and make sure no other information was missing from Liu’s questionnaire.

Lui immediately apologized for the failure to disclose, and Leahy said that the confirmation hearing would continue as planned.

While it’s not unheard of for judicial nominees to accidentally omit inconsequential items, Republicans said that Liu’s omissions were “glaring” and “[create] the impression that he knowingly attempted to hide his most controversial work from the Committee.”

For example, Liu reportedly indicated that he would work to overturn three major Supreme Court precedents during a 2004 panel discussion that he failed to disclose. “[If] we work hard, if we stick to our values, if we build a new moral consensus, then I think someday we will see Milliken [v. Bradley], [San Antonio Independent School District v.] Rodriguez, and Adarand [Construction, Inc. v. Pena] be swept into the dustbin of history,” said Liu, according to a transcript from the panel discussion on Brown v. Board of Education.

Revelations that Liu may have been less than forthright on his questionnaire now give Republicans a non-ideological basis to oppose his appointment. Liu has long garnered criticism from conservatives who say he is a progressive legal activist who will legislate from the bench.

In addition to being an outspoken proponent of affirmative action programs, Liu has also served on the boards of the Left-leaning American Constitutional Society and the Public Welfare Foundation.

Liu is an open critic of the constructionist interpretation of the Constitution. “We believe there’s room for refashioning the legal culture to meet contemporary challenges. The Constitution is meant to be a simple and spare document that adapts to the many changes the country would confront,” he told the ABA Journal on Mar. 1, 2009.

In an NPR interview on Jan. 3, 2009, Liu predicted that the newly-elected Obama administration would help usher in an era of progressive legal policy. “Now we have the opportunity to actually get our ideas and the progressive vision of the Constitution and of law and policy into practice,” he said.

The GOP will likely try to block or delay Liu’s confirmation, and they have not ruled out a possible filibuster.

Alana Goodman is NLPC’s Capitol Hill Reporter.