Paul Oetken: Living proof that it does get better

Sen. Schumer delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor Monday following the confirmation of J. Paul Oetken to serve as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Oetken is the first openly gay man to be confirmed to serve on the federal bench.

It is my distinct honor to rise in support of Paul Oetken’s confirmation to the bench of the Southern District of New York. We have a very deep pool of legal talent in New York, but Paul’s nomination is one that everyone is talking about.

Paul is brilliant, well-rounded, and unwavering in his dedication to public service and his commitment to the rule of law. His confirmation will only improve the workings of one of the best and busiest courts in the country.


Free speech is just that – “free”

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 27 that states cannot forbid the sale or rental of video games to children, it punctuated two terms remarkable for the court’s support for free expression –  in cases remarkable for speech that many, if not most, of us really, really dislike.

In  Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the court’s  7-2 decision voided a never-enforced California law that banned the sale or rental to children age 17 and younger of video games involving violence, gore and assault.


The death penalty: 35 years of a failed experiment

Thirty-five years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court brought back the death penalty, reasoning that judges and juries could be provided with enough guidance to identify the offenders most deserving of capital punishment. After three and a half decades of experimentation, it is time to admit the obvious: if the ultimate punishment cannot be applied fairly, it should not be applied at all.
Indeed, the haphazard way death sentences are meted out caused three of the justices who voted to reinstate the death penalty to change their minds, and express regret that they did not end the death penalty.


Stopping the patent troll scam

Lawsuits over patents have become big business. How big? Google this year bid $900 million for 6,000 technology patents and patent applications held by bankrupt Canadian phone-equipment maker Nortel just to minimize the likelihood of being sued by so-called “patent trolls” -- companies or individuals who buy up patents, not to incorporate them into products and services, but to file nettlesome infringement litigation.

Over the past several years, patent trolls have become the biggest players in patent litigation, which annually yields billions of dollars in settlements and verdicts. But a balanced provision in the patent reform bill working its way through Congress will help protect many of our productive companies from these trolls. Section 18 of the legislation would establish an extra layer of review of patents on financial products and services by experts at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Doing so would boost the economy by reducing the abuse of the civil justice system.


Big mergers: Distinguishing the public interest from special interests

Washington will almost certainly have to deal with a host of proposed mergers in the next few years as markets respond to accelerating forces of technological change and global competition. At the top of the list right now is the ATT/T-Mobile deal, which generated a lot of heat at a House Judiciary Committee meeting just last week.

Herewith, a few observations gleaned from watching the merger scene over the last two decades...


Drug policies must be rooted in science

Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report calling for the decriminalization of illicit drugs based on the notion that global efforts to reduce drug use have been a failure. Certainly, given the stature of the Commission and the long-term challenge of drug policies both nationally and internationally, the Commission’s message may appear compelling at first. But there are serious flaws with both the report’s conclusion and its proposed remedy. 


Why the Senate should reject Goodwin Liu

Sen. McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:

Over the past two years, our nation has been engaged in a great debate about the kind of country we want America to be — a place of maximum liberty and limited government, or a place where no problem is too big or too small for the government to get involved.

This debate arose because of a president who made no apologies about wanting to move America to the left; and it continues today, despite widespread opposition to the president’s policies, because of the president’s clear determination to forge ahead.


Goodwin Liu deserves to serve on the 9th Circuit Court

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the United States. From laborers who were vital to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s to leaders such as Michelle Kwan (world champion figure skater) and retired U.S. Army Four Star Gen. Eric Shinseki (current secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs), Asian Pacific Americans have contributed to almost all aspects of American life.

But despite their achievements in the social, legal and economic sphere of American life, Asian Pacific Americans are rarely chosen for the federal judiciary. Among the approximately 875 federal judges with lifetime tenure in the U.S., only 14 are Asian Pacific American. The percentage is even lower among active federal appellate court judges, where only one out of 175 is Asian Pacific American. In U.S. history, there have been only five Asian Pacific American federal appellate court judges.


Lamar Smith, you are wrong on immigration

Lamar, where did you go wrong? You were such a sensitive fellow when we worked together 30 years ago.

You’ve always been an anti-immigration advocate but as you gain power in congress, you seem to be getting crankier and more self-righteous, not (as you say) more American. Now, you add insult to injury by opposing the Dream Act.

Whatever your motivation, your position strikes me, and many other loyal Latino Republicans like me, as needlessly harsh and insensitive. It doesn’t help the image of the Republican Party in the eyes of the growing Latino electorate who will either make us or break in the upcoming elections.

What you’re doing is defending a bad law that punishes good people.


Judges delayed, justice denied in nation’s courts

Nine hundred days: that’s enough time for a newborn to grow ready for nursery school, and significantly longer than a term of Congress. It’s also the length of time that a number of seats on the federal judiciary have been vacant, due to the gridlock in Washington.
It’s getting to the point where there are so many judicial emergencies, it’s hard to know where the crisis is even focused. Alarm bells are going off everywhere: New York to Arizona, Illinois to California, Florida to Wisconsin. Many states are affected.
What’s the big deal? The remaining judges can work a little harder, cases can move a little slower, right? But, at this point, the problem grows ever-larger and has crippling effects on the justice system. With vacancies routinely hovering in the low to high 90s, civil dockets in many districts are grinding to a halt.