CAPAC applauds President Obama's nomination of Goodwin Liu for Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Today, President Obama nominated Goodwin Liu for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Mr. Liu is currently Associate Dean and Professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Judicial diversity has been a top concern of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and as such has endorsed Asian American, Pacific Islander, and other diverse candidates for the bench, including Professor Liu.  Currently, there are no Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders serving as a federal appellate court judge.  

"CAPAC is pleased with the President's nomination of Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As an acclaimed education and constitutional law scholar, CAPAC members are proud to support his nomination," said Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15), chair of CAPAC. "Goodwin is a personal friend and leader in my home state of California, and I have worked with him for many years, particularly in ensuring access and equity in our education system. Not only has he been a leader in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, he has proven himself in the legal profession as well, with support from renowned legal minds from a diversity of ideological backgrounds."


Let's be clear: Corporations are not people

In a sweeping decision, five Supreme Court justices have seen fit to overturn decades of established legislation and judicial precedents. In Citizens United v. FEC, the Court decided against Congress’ long deliberated record banning corporate campaign spending. The Court tore apart carefully-crafted laws, dating as far back as the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, ruling that corporations should be treated as persons under the First Amendment, entitled to make unlimited expenditures supporting or attacking local, state and federal candidates.

This judicial wrecking crew appears far from finished. The same justices have their sights on the 1907 Tillman Act prohibiting direct corporate contributions to candidates. Justice Clarence Thomas recently told the New York Times: “Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation. Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story, he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”

Many members of Congress are justifiably alarmed that there is a new legislature in town opening the floodgates of unlimited corporate political spending. They are alarmed that the ruling will dramatically increase the cost of campaigns and the time spent fundraising. More importantly, they are alarmed about the damage this ruling will have on the legislative process. Corporate lobbyists may now negotiate with lawmakers wielding that big club of threats of massive campaign spending.


The Big Question: Will Congress pass reform on campaign funds?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Democrats say they are committed to pass legislation in the wake of the Supreme Court's recent decision on campaign finance reform.

Will they be able to pass a bill before the midterm elections?

( Read answers after the jump.)


A dangerous decision by an activist court (Rep. Rosa DeLauro)

With Thursday’s overreaching and irresponsible decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C., easily the worst decision we have seen from the Court since Bush v. Gore in 2000, five justices on the Supreme Court have eviscerated a century of campaign finance reforms, given the green light to blatant corporate corruption of our electoral processes, and endangered the very functioning of our republic.

At a time when more and more Americans worry that their voices are being drowned out in government by the power of well-funded and well-entrenched special interests, the five-member majority on the Court has willfully decided to empower the special interests even further. By bizarrely conflating corporate spending in elections with the fundamental right of free speech for individuals, they have even gone so far as to bestow constitutional protections intended for living, breathing people upon these inanimate interests – a stance which, as writer Dahlia Lithwick has noted, even former Chief Justice Rehnquist believed “confuse[s] metaphor with reality.”


Supreme Court decision is a victory for free speech

Critics of yesterday’s decision say the sky of American democracy is falling.  Supporters—including myself—say it’s a great day for the republic and a vindication of the freedom of speech.  How can this be?  Are nonprofit think tanks and advocacy groups like my own Cato Institute, the ACLU, the NRA, and many other odd bedfellows who supported Citizens United all in the pockets of Wall Street, Big Oil, insurance companies, and others that President Obama assails as corrupting our politics?  Leaving aside the issue of why the politician who got more of his campaign funding from Goldman Sachs than any other source would be going after the very industries that most support him, the asymmetry in this debate rests on the myth that money is an evil in the political system, and that therefore the American people want so-called campaign finance reform to “clean up” government.

Money is no more an evil in politics than it is in life generally.  Some people may not like mud-slinging attack ads, but some people also don’t like SUVs, the Super Bowl, the Jay Leno Show, and many other things that people spend money on—including donations to Cato, the ACLU, the NRA, etc.  The problem with money in politics isn’t the money, but rather the politics.  So long as the government is powerful enough to dole out tax breaks, subsidies, stimulus funds, regulations, earmarks, and a whole host of other goodies (and baddies), those that stand to benefit (and lose) will spend money on the political process.  The way to get rid of this behavior and spending—which is constitutionally protected in a whole host of ways: freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, etc.—is to reduce the government’s power to affect so many people’s lives and transform economic incentives for businesses big and small.  Reduce the size of government and K Street will melt away.


The Big Question: Will corporate money change campaigns?

Rep. Alan Grayson says: Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling is the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case. 

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today .

Today's question:

The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down campaign finance restrictions. What is your reaction to this decision?

(Read responses to today's question after the jump.)


Hold federal officials accountable under the Rule of Law for tax-dodging (Rep. John Carter)

The Geithner Penalty Waiver Act is a variation on a theme of the Rangel Rule bill we introduced earlier this year.  Both demand that everyone in this country be treated equally under the law.

As a former attorney and judge for decades before coming to Congress, I know that most Americans would pay heavy penalties, interest, and maybe even jail time for tax offenses similar to those admitted by Secretary Geithner and Chairman Rangel.  Yet neither has been assessed one nickel in penalties.

My efforts on this issue are not to criticize the mistakes of others.  Most of us will make mistakes or miss deadlines on taxes at some point in our life, and end up paying penalties and interest.

What is at stake is equality under the law, and by extension, the Rule of Law itself.  Are we now a nation in which we blatantly allow the wealthy or politically-powerful better treatment under the law than the average working citizen?

The Rule of Law says all should be treated equally.  So either these two pay appropriate penalties or interest, or no one should pay penalties or interest.  That is the principal of both the Geithner Act and the Rangel Rule.   


Trust American Law to bring justice against Guantanamo Bay detainees (Rep. Joe Sestak)

When I headed the Navy antiterrorism unit that was created in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, it was my mission to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to justice. I am pleased to see that he and his cohorts will now face proper justice in a federal court ("N.Y. trial ordered for 9/11 detainees," Saturday).
I have no greater concern than the national security of the United States. But the men and women I served alongside in the U.S. military weren't fighting just to protect our country; we were fighting for our ideals and values. We understood that our principles are the source of our strength as a nation, not some luxury for gentler times.
The last thing we should ever do is allow these terrorists to cause us to compromise our rule of law. That's why I don't think anything will send a stronger signal of America's strength and resilience than to bring these men to New York to account for their crimes in the most highly regarded justice system in the world. We're not going to do it their way, outside the rule of law. We're going to do it our way. Because we're stronger than they are. We're better.


The Big Question: Will there be fallout from decision to try 9/11 suspects in NY?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today:

Today's question:

Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that some Guantanamo Bay detainees, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be tried in a civilian federal court in New York. What is the possible legal, cultural or political fallout from this decision?

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said:

The same Administration that announced on day one that is was closing Guantanamo -- only to later find out that there were actually dangerous people housed there -- is willfully bringing 9/11 killers to American soil.  This decision is no better thought-out than its plan (it didn't have one) to close GITMO.

These are not common criminals, they aren't even American citizens.  Simply put, there is nothing wrong with treating foreigners differently than Americans, especially combatants. Americans enjoy special rights and protections because we carry out the responsibilities of being Americans. Foreigners captured, out of uniform, while trying to kill Americans, needless to say, have no part in that compact. To live in a legal ivory tower that treats everyone the same, even terrorists, is the height of irresponsibility.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of AntiWar.com, said:

Aside from the militaristic fetishism of the Bush administration and its neoconservative supporters, I fail to understand just why it was deemed impossible to try Gitmo detainees in a civilian court in the first place -- and why, now, all of them aren't being so tried (pace Glenn Greenwald in Salon).

So Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is being tried in NEW YORK? Does anyone think the jury will be sympathetic? It seems to me as if he might get a fairer trial in a military court.

The idea that our legal institutions and traditions have to be bypassed on account of the "war on terrorism" was part and parcel of the post-9/11 "everything's changed" meme, spread by the neocons in order to lubricate their de facto coup d'etat and usurpation of government power. As Bob Woodward put it in "Plan of Attack":

"Powell felt Cheney and his allies – his chief aide, I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and what Powell called Feith’s ‘Gestapo’ office – had established what amounted to a separate government.”

A separate White House -- headquartered in the Office of the Vice President. A separate intelligence-gathering apparatus -- in the "Office of Special Plans." And a separate judiciary -- in the military tribunals set up by the coup leaders, which were given charge of the Gitmo detainees. The War Party, in effect, did an end run around the Constitution and the duly constituted government, and set up their own parallel institutions. That the Gitmo detainees are (some of them) being tried in civilian courts signals a return to normalcy, and the partial undoing of the neocon coup. Now we just have to repeal the PATRIOT Act and the Military Commissions Act -- and get our troops out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever else they have no business being.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said in a statement:

The terrorists who planned, participated in, and aided the September 11, 2001 attacks are war criminals, not common criminals. Not only are these individuals not common criminals but war criminals, they are also not American citizens entitled to all the constitutional rights American citizens have in our federal courts. The individuals accused of committing these heinous, cowardly acts of intentionally targeting unsuspecting, defenseless civilians should therefore be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States.

The military commission system recently signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act provides standards of due process and fairness that fully comply with the requirements established by the Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions. Earlier this year, when passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate also passed language expressing its clear intent that military commissions rather than civilian courts in the U.S. are the appropriate forum for the trial of these alleged terrorists. I share the views of more than 140 family members of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who recently wrote to the Senate urging that the individuals charged with responsibility for those attacks should be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States: It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims' families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America. 

Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, said:

If America is going to start acting like America again, why should there be any fall-out?

If we are a nation based on respect for the law, if we are to be an example for other nations, and if we have confidence in our institutions and our principles - then why would we be threatened, and why would we let anyone play politics with our values?

Politicians who use scare tactics to challenge this just decision are either demagogues preying off fear or are, themselves, scared little boys.

Meghan Tisinger, director of Communications for Military Families United, said:

This decision is a victory for those who perpetrated the attacks of September 11, 2001, not the American people. For years, attorneys for the accused accomplices of the September 11th hijackers have been fighting the US Government to permit their clients to be tried in civilian court. The Obama Administration has now capitulated to those requests. The September 11 accomplices will now receive many of the same constitutional rights and privileges as ordinary Americans.

Given the unique circumstances of their alleged crimes, capture and detention, those rights will be used as a sword rather than a shield. The September 11 accomplices are enemy combatants, not civilian criminals. Their access to the civilian justice system will enable them to exclude key evidence from the proceedings and seek legal protections to which they would not be otherwise entitled. With a potentially tainted jury pool in New York City, these 9/11 accomplices may also be able to claim violation of their Constitutional rights to a fair trial. In a shameless attempt to appease the ACLU, the Administration’s decision is fraught with peril for all Americans and the families of those who perished in the attacks.

Military Families United believes that the best solution is for GITMO to remain open and for all suspected terrorists held in the Guantanamo Bay facility to be tried as soon as possible under the revised Military Commissions process.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement:

I have always believed that the nation’s federal courts are capable of trying high profile terrorism and national security cases.  They have proven time and time again to be up to the job.  The Justice Department’s decision to pursue criminal charges against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other suspects in federal court is a step toward bringing long overdue justice to the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.   I hope these cases will move forward promptly.  By trying them in our federal courts, we demonstrate to the world that the most powerful nation on earth also trusts its judicial system – a system respected around the world.

Debra Burlingame, attorney and member of the Board of Directors of Keep America Safe, said:

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder will announce that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and several of his fellow 9/11 co-conspirators will be brought to New York City and tried in federal court. No doubt the Attorney General will invoke the phrase, "Swift and certain justice." This is a sham. There will be nothing swift and nothing certain about it.

The trial will be a travesty. The prosecutors at the Southern and Eastern Districts fought over these career-making cases like vultures at a kill. But who will be the vulture? In open court, it will be Khalid Shiek Mohammed who will hold forth, mocking his victims, exulting in the suffering of their families, ridiculing the judge, his lawyers and the American justice system, and worst of all, rallying his jihadi brothers to kill more Americans as the men and women of the US military risk their lives in the mountains of Afghanistan and the sands of Iraq. All, just blocks from where 20,000 body parts were dug out of the rubble of the Twin Towers.

Remember KSM's famous opening line when he was grabbed in Rawalpindi? "I'll talk to you guys after I get to New York and see my lawyer." Thanks to the Obama Administration, it looks like he’ll get his wish. And he’ll do his best—with the help of this top-drawer lawyers and much of the media—to make the real defendants at the trial the CIA interrogators—and the American government.

How will this help achieve what our president claims he wants to achieve--"restoring respect for America"? Is that what he really wants?"


Litigation industry 'doth protest too much'

Throughout the long, hot summer, pressure mounted on Congress and the White House to include meaningful tort reform in pending health care legislation. Still, the litigation industry, as embodied by its chief trade group here in Washington, stayed decidedly cool.

Trial lawyer lobbyists knew two things: 1) they give more campaign money to those now running both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue than any other industry or special interest, election cycle after election cycle, and 2) their own public approval ratings routinely fall below that of used car salesmen and even some members of Congress. So it made perfect sense to lay low while the health care debate raged on.

Why make public statements that expose your parasitic self-interest in keeping tort reform out of the health care bill and risk turning public opinion further against your congressional allies when you can just kick back and let your generous campaign contributions quietly do all your talking for you?