Cornyn Holds Hearing To Discuss "Fresh Start" in Judicial Confirmation Process

In: All News   Posted 05/06/2003

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Cornyn led efforts to reform the broken judicial confirmation process by convening a hearing Tuesday, two years and two unprecedented filibusters after President Bush announced his first class of nominees to the circuit courts of appeals. Cornyn, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution, sought a way out of the judicial confirmation impasse in a subcommittee hearing entitled: Judicial Nominations, Filibusters, and the Constitution: When a majority is denied its right to consent. In the hearing, Senators, leading constitutional scholars and legal experts offered solutions and discussed ways to ensure timely consideration of current and future nominees to the federal bench."This week, the Senate will mark a dismal political anniversary. Two full years have passed since President Bush announced his first class of nominees to the federal courts of appeals,” Sen. Cornyn said in his opening statement. “Never before has the judicial confirmation process been so broken, and the constitutional principles of judicial independence and majority rule so undermined. It’s time for a fresh start.” the hearing comes as a partisan minority of the Senate is filibustering Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada, while more are threatened. Sens. Zell Miller (D-Ga.), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), as well as constitutional experts and legal scholars Professor Steven G. Calabresi, Northwestern School of Law; Professor John C. Eastman, Chapman Law School; Bruce Fein, Fein & Fein; Michael Gerhardt of William & Mary; Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center; and Dean Douglas W. Kmiec, Catholic University School of Law all testified before the committee. "It’s encouraging that my colleagues acknowledged that the system is broken and offered proposals to end this downward spiral of partisan obstruction in the Senate,” Chairman Cornyn added. Cornyn spearheaded a letter signed by all freshman Senators last week that urged the Senate leadership to seek a fresh start and create a better process for the Senate’s consideration of judicial nominations. In the letter, the Senators wrote that, “when a well qualified nominee for the federal bench is denied a vote, the obstruction is justified on the grounds of how a prior nominee – typically, the nominees of a previous President – was treated. All of these recriminations, made by members on both sides of the aisle, relate to circumstances which occurred before any of us arrived in the United States Senate.”More- Sen. Cornyn chairs the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights & Property Rights, and is the only former judge on the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Armed Services, Environment and Public Works, and Budget Committees. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.-See below for biographies of the witnesses-Steven G. Calabresi, Northwestern School of Law Professor Calabresi is a member of the faculty of the Northwestern University School of Law and is a graduate of the Yale Law School and of Yale College. He served as a Law Clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court. From 1985 to 1990, he served in the Reagan and Bush Administrations working both in the White House and before that in the U.S. Department of Justice. Since joining the Northwestern Faculty in 1990, Professor Calabresi has participated in constitutional reform conferences with Eastern European officials.*** John C. Eastman, Chapman School of Law John Eastman is a Professor of Law at the Chapman University School of Law, specializing in Constitutional Law and Legal History. He is also the Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a public interest law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy. Prior to joining the Chapman law faculty, Dr. Eastman served as a law clerk to the Honorable Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States.*** Bruce Fein, Fein & Fein Bruce Fein is a nationally acclaimed expert on constitutional law. He has more than 25 years of experience in legal fields ranging from antitrust to communications to national security law. He is former Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Department of Justice and former General Counsel of the Federal Communications Commission. Both parties in Congress have repeatedly summoned Mr. Fein to testify on various constitutional subjects. According to National Law Journal, he is one of the seven most quoted attorneys in the nation. He regularly appears on national radio and television, including National Public Radio, Face the Nation, C-Span and MSNBC.*** Michael Gerhardt, William & Mary School of Law Prof. Michael Gerhardt is the Hanson Professor of Law at the William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law, in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 2000, he authored a book of direct relevance to today’s hearing, entitled The Federal Appointments Process. He previously served as special consultant to the White House Counsel’s Office for the Confirmation of Justice Stephen Breyer. Prof. Gerhardt has the distinction of being the only joint witness, called to testify by members on both sides of the aisle, before the House Judiciary Committee in its special hearing on the impeachment process in 1998. More- Marcia Greenberger, National Women’s Law Center Ms. Marcia Greenberger is the founder and Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, here in Washington, D.C. She is a nationally recognized expert on sex discrimination law and is no stranger to the politics of the judicial confirmation process. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Greenberger has been recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the most powerful women in Washington.*** Douglas W. Kmiec, Catholic University School of Law One of the nation’s leading experts in constitutional law, Douglas W. Kmiec previously held the Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University School of Law. Prior to that post, he taught constitutional law at the University of Notre Dame for nearly two decades. Professor Kmiec has previously served as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. Dean Kmiec has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles on constitutional issues and the role of the U.S. Supreme Court. These include books co-authored with distinguished legal historian Stephen B. Presser - The American Constitutional Order, Individual Rights and the American Constitution, and The History, Structure and Philosophy of the American Constitution.