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Obama Bench Nominee Draws Heated GOP Resistance

A Senate hearing on the federal appeals court nomination of law professor Goodwin Liu took a deeply partisan tone Friday, with Republicans assailing the nominee for his criticisms of conservative justices, lack of judicial experience and liberal writings.

Liu, an associate dean and professor at University of California, Berkeley's law school, has been nominated by the Obama administration to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He has endorsed liberal positions on affirmative action and gay marriage, but he has also supported conservative stances on school vouchers and charter schools.

During contentious questioning Friday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Liu was repeatedly taken to task for his written opposition to the nominations of Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts.

Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) voiced considerable anger over Liu's criticism of the two justices. Kyl read an excerpt from an article Liu wrote about Alito's "vision" of America "where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy ... 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 ... where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man, absent ... analysis showing discrimination."

Kyl said the remarks were "vicious and emotionally and racially charged."

Liu responded that the passage was "unnecessarily colorful language," but he added that the passage came at the end of a 14-page analysis of Alito's rulings.

The nominee also said he had a high regard for Alito's work and that Roberts had a distinguished record.

Republicans eagerly contrasted Liu's experience with that of Alito and Roberts, noting that he has no judicial experience, had never argued before the Supreme Court and had only argued one case before a federal appeals court.

But Democrats countered that there have been GOP nominees who were conservative activists and had no judicial experience. Liu assured the committee that his personal beliefs would not impact his decisions on the bench, if he is confirmed. And despite not having a judicial resume, he said his legal career shows he's disciplined and adept at making well-reasoned decisions.

In a letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 42 of California's 58 county district attorneys opposed Liu's nomination, citing his criticism of Alito's death penalty decisions.

But the nominee also has both liberal and conservative supporters, including conservative Kenneth Starr, dean of Pepperdine's law school and the former Whitewater prosecutor.

"We recognize that commentators on all sides will be drawn to debate the views Goodwin has expressed in his writings and speeches. in the end, however, a judge takes an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and in the case of a circuit judge, fidelity to the law entails adherence to Supreme Court precedent and (apart from the en banc process) adherence to circuit precedent as well," stated Starr and Yale's professor Akhil Reed Amar in a letter to the committee.

If confirmed, Liu would be the only active Asian-American judge on a federal appeals court. The nomination of another Asian-American, Denny Chin, was unanimously approved by the committee in December, but Republicans have prevented a floor vote on his nomination.

During Friday's proceedings, Liu said his parents were Taiwanese immigrants who valued immigration. He didn't learn English until kindergarten, but he went on to be valedictorian of his public high school class and attended Stanford, Yale and Oxford universities.

"I feel I've lived a very ordinary life, but I've had extraordinary opportunities along the way," Liu told lawmakers.

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