Press Release

July 25, 2014
On the nomination of Pamela Harris

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, shortly we will have the opportunity to vote on a cloture motion on Pamela Harris for confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which includes Maryland. I urge my colleagues not only to support the cloture motion but to support her confirmation as a judge in the Fourth Circuit.

   Senator Mikulski and I have a process–and I thank the senior Senator from Maryland for that process–we use in screening recommendations to the President for judgeships. I am very proud of that process. It is very open. We think we have recruited the very best in the legal profession to serve as our judges, and I am proud to be part of it with Senator Mikulski.

   Of all of the candidates I have interviewed for the appellate court, Pamela Harris has stood out as one of the most qualified individuals we have in the legal community to sit on our appellate court. She is exceptional in her qualifications, well qualified. She is an excellent Supreme Court litigator, has clerked at the Federal appellate court, supervised policy initiatives at the Department of Justice, and she has dedicated her career and professional life to improving the administration of justice as a public servant.

   A little bit of background about her–particularly her family.

   Her grandmother was a Polish Jewish immigrant to the United States who valued education and worked hard to overcome personal adversity. Her mom put herself through law school, with young children, after a divorce, and died from cancer a few years later. Ms. Harris relied in part on Pell grants to attend college at Yale. Her story represents the American dream and the American experience and the opportunity in this country coming from an immigrant family.

   After graduating from public high school in Montgomery County, Walt Whitman High School, Ms. Harris received a B.A. summa cum laude from Yale College in 1985 and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1990. After her graduation from law school, she clerked for Judge Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and later clerked with Justice John Paul Stevens of the Supreme Court of the United States between 1992 and 1993.

   She became associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Beginning in 2007, while she was still in private practice, Ms. Harris co-directed Harvard Law School’s Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Clinic and was a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

   In 2009 Ms. Harris was named the executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown, serving until 2010. Ms. Harris joined the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General until returning to Georgetown in 2012.

   Ms. Harris is currently a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a senior advisor to the Supreme Court Institute.

   It is not surprising that the American Bar Association has given her the highest rating of unanimously “well qualified” for this appointment. She has appeared as counsel or co-counsel in approximately 100 cases before the Federal courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. Her practice has been pretty evenly divided between criminal cases and civil cases.

   When it comes to Supreme Court litigation, I must tell you I don’t think Ms. Harris has an equal as far as her qualifications. Her clinic at Georgetown which she supervises prepares litigants for the Supreme Court. In other words, she provides experience for those who are going to be before the Supreme Court as to how to properly litigate those cases, and she takes them on a first-come, first-served basis. It is not ideological at all. It is to make sure the highest quality presentations are made in the highest Court of our land so we get the best decisions made by the highest Court of our land, the Supreme Court of the United States. That is the type of person we need on our court of appeals.

   As I said, I don’t know of a person whom I have interviewed who is more qualified to be an appellate court judge than Ms. Harris. She understands the different role of an advocate or someone writing an opinion or commentary column and a judge. I want to emphasize this. She is a person who brings–we all bring our views and our passion to life, but she understands what the judiciary is all about.

   As is the practice of the Judiciary Committee–and I served on the Judiciary Committee and I am proud of my service–I thank Senator Leahy for his credible leadership. As you know, after the committee there are questions for the record that are submitted by the Senators. That is certainly true in Ms. Harris’s case, and I have those answers here. I would like my colleagues to read these answers because I can imagine the people in the White House going through all the legal cites that Ms. Harris gave in each of the answers to the questions our colleagues requested. It is one of the most thorough answers I have ever seen and thoroughly vetted by the Supreme Court decisions. I mention that because it is exactly why I believe what she has told us is what she will do. She understands the role of a judge in our system.

   Quoting from her answer:

   “I fully recognize that the role of a judge is entirely different from the role of an advocate. If confirmed as a judge, my role would be to apply governing law and precedent impartially to the facts of a particular case.”

   Pam Harris went on to state:

   “It is inappropriate for any judge or Justice to base his or her decision on their own personal views or on public opinion ….. If confirmed as a circuit judge, I would faithfully follow the methodological precedence of the Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit, applying the interpretive approaches and only the interpretive approaches used by those courts.”

   Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take her qualifications for it. Look at the record. Look at the letters that have been sent in support of Ms. Harris to the Judiciary Committee. There are numerous letters.

   I will quote from one that was signed by more than 80 of her professional peers, and I will tell you it includes individuals who were appointed by Republican Presidents to key positions, including Gregory Garre, the former Solicitor General for George W. Bush, but it includes many in that category, and I am reading from that letter. This letter is part of the record. It was made part of the record in the Judiciary Committee.

   It says in part:

   “We are lawyers from diverse backgrounds and varying affiliations, but we are united in our admiration for Pam’s skills as a lawyer and our respect for her integrity, her intellect, her judgment, and her fair-mindedness.”

   The letter continues:

   “Many of us have had the opportunity to work with Pam on appellate matters. She has been co-counsel to some of us, opposing counsel to others, and a valuable colleague to all. In her appellate work, Pam has demonstrated extraordinary skill. She is a quick study, careful listener, and acute judge of legal arguments. She knows the value of clarity, candor, vigor, and responsiveness. Of equal importance, she has always conducted herself with consummate professionalism, grace, and congeniality, and has a humble and down-to-earth approach to her work.”

   The letter concludes:

   “Her well-rounded experience makes her well prepared for the docket of a federal appellate court. Pam’s substantive knowledge, intellect, and low-key temperament will be great assets for the position for which she has been nominated.”

   She has the whole package. She has intellectual ability. She has the ability to communicate. She has the demeanor we would like to see on our Federal bench.

   Let me just add one more characteristic before I yield the floor. I see the distinguished Republican leader of the Judiciary Committee is here and is going to be commenting.

   She also has empathy for the importance of our legal system to all. She has volunteered her time to pro bono work in order to help address the growing access to the justice gap in our system for individuals who could not afford legal assistance as we still strive to provide equal justice under law. While in private practice she established a pro bono program in which the law firm where she works worked with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender to provide pro bono representation to defendants appealing criminal convictions in State courts and she supervised attorneys participating in the program, just another indication she understands the oath she takes to dispense justice without partiality to wealth, that everyone is entitled to access to our judicial system and our legal system and she has taken personal interest in doing that.

   Senator Mikulski and I are proud that she is a long-time resident of Montgomery County, MD, we take great pride in the fact that she is a Marylander, and we urge our colleagues to support this nomination.