It is nothing new for the Senate to give a hard time to nominees for the federal bench. Ethics issues are a favorite source of controversy (recall Judge Alito and Vanguard – the mutual fund, not the toilet seat). Also common are allegations that the nominee is not answering questions truthfully or completely.
So here we go again. Goodwin Liu, a law professor, has been nominated for the Ninth Circuit. Up until now he has done what law professors do, which is to teach, write articles and give lectures and informal talks. He apparently kept careful track of most of these and he turned extensive information about his writing and speaking over to the Senate. He also, however, missed some things in his initial answers to the Senate questionnaire: a brown bag lunch here, a talk with alumni there, etc. Now – of course – the allegation will arise that he was careless in his response or even intended to hide something from the Senate.
His supplemental answers to the Senate questionnaire are attached. Judge for yourself, but it seems to me that most of these items are the types of things that law professors do routinely and frequently. They are nearly impossible to keep track of. Unless one keeps time sheets like a practicing lawyer – which we don’t – the resume file on the hard drive is the way most of us keep track of speaking engagements, along perhaps with the annual activities report to the dean. The important things we add to our resume and the others we forget. Given Professor Liu’s stature in his field and his many speaking invitations – and the fact that he was also associate dean which involves yet more speaking – a lot of the items he left off of his original Senate disclosure form were relatively unimportant and/or redundant of what he had already disclosed (I am not the only law professor who gives essentially the same talk in four or five different places). Then there are the many letters and briefs that professors are asked to sign (I admit loosing track of these also, although I do recall the letters and briefs that I wrote)
I worked with a lot of President Bush’s nominees for the executive branch, with three Supreme Court nominees and some nominees to the courts of appeals. The Senate questionnaires are lengthy and ask for just about everything. Some nominees don’t remember everything they have ever said or where they said it. Professor Liu also apparently does not have a photographic memory. It appears to me, however, that his original answers to the questions were a careful and good faith effort to supply the Senate with the information it needed to assess his nomination. He provided a lot more information than many nominees do in response to these questions. He has now provided the additional information the Senate wants. I doubt the Senators will learn anything new from it. Rather than posturing over yet one more “missing documents” episode in