Press Releases and Media Advisories

Press Release

Thursday, May 19, 2011

For Immediate Release

UC Berkeley Law School Faculty React to Senate Vote on Goodwin Liu

Media Contact: Susan Gluss, 510.642.6936,

UC Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley and faculty members today expressed dismay at the U.S. Senate vote denying cloture on judicial nominee Goodwin Liu. Law professor Liu was nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit more than one year ago.

The vote against cloture—which would have ended debate and allowed for a full Senate vote on Liu’s merits—failed 52 to 43.  Sixty votes are required to end debate; a simple majority is needed for confirmation. Only one Republican voted for cloture, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley criticized the denial of cloture.

"I met just this morning with a delegation of lawyers from China,” said Edley.  “I had planned to talk with them about our national pride in having a federal judiciary independent of partisan politics and discuss the efforts of many in China to develop a similar legal culture.  But I felt vaguely nauseated about the Liu episode. It would have been fraudulent to boast on the very day the Senate cast aside respect for merit. The Senate has had up-or-down votes on many Republican nominees far more conservative than Goodwin is 'liberal'. It's shameful."

Conservative and moderate Berkeley Law scholars alike described Professor Liu’s writings as mainstream.  In fact, not a single legal scholar suggested otherwise during the entire fifteen months since he was first nominated on February 24, 2010.

Constitutional law professor Jesse Choper said this case “is a sharply disturbing illustration of the politicization of the judicial confirmation process.”

“A senator can oppose a nominee for any variety of reasons,” said Choper, “but there has to be an especially strong reason of principle to vote against cloture. It’s extremely unfortunate to deny cloture for a highly-qualified person nominated by the president who is well within the mainstream of conventional judicial and scholarly thinking.”

“It is particular inappropriate to exercise veto power for an appointment to the Court of Appeals. The Appeals Court has to follow judgments of the U.S. Supreme Court, which I am confident Liu would do regardless of his own views,” said Choper. Goodwin Liu is terribly smart. He exercises balanced judgment combined with great intellectual power. And he has, in my experience, a model judicial temperament.”

Law professor and former prosecutor David Sklansky said, "Goodwin Liu is a brilliant scholar and a dedicated public servant. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have Goodwin as a colleague, and the students who have been fortunate enough to have him as a teacher, know he would have been an exemplary and fair-minded judge."

Liu joined the Berkeley Law faculty in 2003 and earned tenure and promotion to Associate Dean in 2008.  A nationally recognized expert on issues of educational equity, he won the Education Law Association’s Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in 2007.  Liu is also a popular and acclaimed teacher, winning UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2009, the university’s highest honor for teaching excellence.

Before coming to Berkeley Law, Liu practiced as a litigation attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of O’Melveny & Myers.  He clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  He also served as a special assistant to the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and as a senior program officer at the Corporation for National Service.

The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Liu grew up in Sacramento and attended public schools until he went to college at Stanford University.  After graduating with honors, he won a Rhodes Scholarship and earned a masters degree at Oxford.  He graduated from Yale Law School in 1998 and joined the California bar in 1999, making him the first person in his family to become a lawyer.