Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Patrick Leahy Statements on Supreme Court Nominees

Cross-posted by Gary Fouse

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Monday, Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made the below statement on Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor:

"Judge Sotomayor's journey to this hearing room is a truly American story." Let no one demean this extraordinary woman."

Leahy, of course, is referring to the Democratic party line that Sotomayor's rise as a Puerto Rican woman from a humble New York City upbringing is a true American success story that goes far in qualifying her to sit on the Supreme Court. By now, everybody knows that the Democrats have wrapped this nomination in ethnic overtones trying to intimidate the Republicans into not opposing Sotomayor for fear of being labled "anti-Hispanic".

But what about the rise of another Hispanic, Miguel Estrada, from humble beginnings (a Honduran immigrant), who was nominated to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by a Republican president in 2003? What did Leahy have to say then about Estrada?

"This is and has been a difficult nomination for the Senate. As I have said for some time, the Senate and the American people deserve to have an adequate record and strong confidence about the type of judge Mr. Estrada would be in order to support a favorable vote on this nomination. Such is not the case of the sparse record before the Senate on this nomination to the second- highest court in the land, and as a Senator I do not have sufficient confidence to be able to support this nomination. I remain concerned that he will be an activist on the important D.C. Circuit, given what we have learned about him and given the insufficient record we have. Throughout our earlier proceedings I have repeatedly urged Mr. Estrada and the Administration to be more forthcoming. Neither the nominee nor the Administration have shown any interest in doing so.

Accordingly, we have before us for consideration a nominee with no judicial experience and little relevant practical experience related to the jurisdiction of this court. While he counts Justice Scalia, Ken Starr and Ted Olson among his friends and mentors, any information about his decision-making, values and judgment have been denied the Senate. His selection for this nomination has generated tremendous controversy. I think that is, in part, because he appears to have been groomed to be an activist appellate judge by well-connected, ideologically driven legal activists.

Last week the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus restated their concerns and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP) reiterated their concerns. Similarly, a large number of this country’s most respected Latino Labor leaders, including Maria Elena Durazo of HERE, Arturo S. Rodriquez of the UFW, Miguel Contreras of L.A. County Fed., Cristina Vazquez of UNITE and Eliseo Medina of SEIU, have indicated their strong opposition to this nomination.

.....After a thorough review, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund concluded that Mr. Estrada was not sufficiently qualified for a lifetime seat on the nation’s second highest court and “that his reportedly extreme views should be disqualifying; that he has not had a demonstrated interest in or any involvement with the organized Hispanic community or Hispanic activities of any kind; and that he lacks the maturity and judicial temperament necessary to be a circuit judge.”

Patrick Leahy on floor debate on nomination of Miguel Estrada, February 5, 2003

And what about the rise from humble beginnings in Alabama of African-American Janice Rogers-Brown, also nominated to the DC Court of Appeals by a Republican president in 2003?

"Justice Brown has a lengthy record, of opinions, of speeches and of writings. She has very strong opinions, and there is little mystery about her views. After carefully reviewing Justice Brown’s record – reading her opinions from the bench, reviewing her speeches and writings, and considering her testimony and oral and written answers provided to this Committee, I will vote against Janice Rogers Brown’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is not about her position on choice. This is not about one dissent or one speech. This is about Justice Brown’s approach to the law – an approach which she has consistently used to promote her own ideological agenda, an extreme agenda that is out of the mainstream. Her approach makes her unqualified for a lifetime appointment to this very important appellate court.

‘Jurisprudence Of Convenience’

Janice Rogers Brown’s approach to the law can be best described as a “jurisprudence of convenience.” What do I mean by that? Justice Brown has proven herself to be a results-oriented, agenda-driven judge whose respect for precedent and rules of judicial interpretation change depending on the subject matter before her and the results she wants to reach."

Patrick Leahy statement during confirmation hearings, November 6, 2003

Then there was Clarence Thomas, also an American success story, who rose from poverty in Pin Point, Georgia. Yet, he was a another black conservative. He was savaged by Leahy and his Democratic colleagues in 1991. Here are excerpts from Leahy's remarks to Thomas when he testified:

"Finally, I am concerned about some of your ideological views. You have wholeheartedly endorsed the statement that America is careening with frightening speed toward a statist dictatorial system. Well, I can't accept that, and these words seem more than a little strange as we watch the unfolding drama of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, where countries that truly suffered under statist dictatorial systems throw off their shackles. And when they throw off their shackles, where do they look? They look toward a free and compassionate America as an example of how a democracy is run.

But, more disturbingly, your words strike me as the views of a combative, hard-line ideologue. The last thing I seek in a Supreme Court Justice is ideology. I value intelligence and wisdom, compassion, a willingness to listen to all sides of an argument. I want someone on the bench who is going to give every litigant a fair shake, without bias or predisposition of any kind. Ideological fervor plays no part in a judicial temperament."
Patrick Leahy to Clarence Thomas, September 10, 1991

Patrick Leahy is what he accuses his opponents of being-an ideologue. To him, these judicial appointments are all about ideology. To be sure, Republicans on the committee are concerned about Sotomayor's ideology. But, the result is certain. Sotomayor will be confirmed and some Republicans will probably even vote for her. Hopefully, the hearings will feature an open discussion on the role of a judge's personal wishes in his or her decisions. Sotomayor should be asked about her prior statements and rulings. She should also be given an up or down vote.

Then we can compare her treatment with that of conservative minority judges by Democrats.

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