June 25, 2008

FLOOR STATEMENT ON 6TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS (MICHIGAN)

  Mr. President, I listened to Senator Specter talk about one of our most important responsibilities; that is, the confirmation process on the President's nominations for our courts, which are lifetime appointments. It is a major responsibility each of us has in the Senate.

   I think the way this confirmation process has proceeded with the three judges before us is an example as to how we should be working on the confirmation of judges. First, I think the process under which the Senators worked with the White House on the appointments is a model that should be used, I hope, in more circuits, where there is a real working relationship between the Senators and the White House to come up with the best qualified individuals to serve on the Federal bench. I congratulate Senators LEVIN and STABENOW for the manner in which these nominations were brought forward.

   Second is the confirmation process before the Judiciary Committee. I spent a lot of time reading the backgrounds on each of our nominees, as well as the hearing itself. I must tell you that as a result of reading the background material, as a result of the confirmation hearings, I am a strong supporter of Judge White for her confirmation to the court of appeals. I also support Mr. Kethledge for the court of appeals. I must tell you, in reading his background, I was a little concerned because he didn't have any real experience in writing opinions, didn't have experience in trying cases, as far as a judge is concerned, and there wasn't much to judge his ability to reason on the court of appeals by his background. But I must tell you, after listening to the confirmation hearings, I was convinced that he is well qualified to serve on the court of appeals. I am supporting his nomination. That is what the confirmation process should be about.

   I listened to Senator Specter have concerns about Judge White because of some of her opinions. I must tell you, I am pleased we have before us a nominee who has the experience to go onto the court of appeals or appellate courts. Judge White has served 15 years on the State appellate court. She has written numerous opinions, has participated in over 4,000 cases, served 12 years on the circuit court in Michigan. So she has trial court experience as a judge, and she has appellate court experience as a judge.

   Quite frankly, I have been disappointed by a lot of the nominees who have been brought forward by the White House because they have brought forward individuals who do not have experience to go on our second highest court. I think experience is important. I raised those concerns during Judge Elrod's confirmation hearing and Judge Haynes's hearing. I would like to have people with more experience so that we can judge their qualifications.

   In Judge White's case, we have that record, and it is a great one. Has she been reversed in her 4,000 decisions? Yes. That is why we have appellate courts. But she has never been challenged as far as her reasoning and her fairness and her demeanor. In fact, she has been rated by the American Bar Association as well-qualified.''

   One more thing, Mr. President, as to why I strongly support Judge White's confirmation, and that is the manner in which she handled the confirmation hearings. They were not easy hearings. There were tough questions that were asked. She exercised the type of demeanor I want to see in our Federal judges. She exercised the type of response that I think represents the types of qualifications I want to see on our Federal bench. So I am very much supporting her confirmation. I hope she will receive a strong vote on the floor.

   I urge my colleagues to support all three of the Michigan judges who are before us for confirmation.

   With that, I yield the floor.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont is recognized.

   Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I appreciate the comments of my colleagues. First, I commend the two Senators from Michigan, who spent years working out this conclusion for these three nominees to be here. I commend Senator Levin and Senator Stabenow for working so hard. Senator Cardin spent so much time at the hearing with me. I appreciate the amount of time he spent there. His words of calm reasoning, but with questions that cut right to the importance of the hearing, were extremely valuable.