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Lugar: Votes for Obama Supreme Court nominees carried heavy cost

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Former Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar told members of the federal judiciary Monday that his support of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court appointees, opposed by many in his party, may have carried the greatest political cost of any decisions during his 36 years in the Senate.

Lugar said his support of justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were most frequently mentioned by the roughly 250,000 voters his campaign staff personally talked with in phone conversations during the 2012 Republican primary campaign. Lugar was unseated by tea party favorite Richard Mourdock, who lost the general election to Democrat Joe Donnelly.

Lugar said voters were not persuaded by the argument that obstructing nominees on a political basis would raise obstacles for the nominees of future Republican presidents. Voters said they understood such a view, but it was “trumped by their desire to oppose the president,” Lugar told the 7th Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference Monday in Indianapolis.

Senators of opposing parties now vote against confirmation of federal judges from half to four-fifths of the time, Lugar said. “It’s no longer good politics” to approach confirmation votes from a non-political point of view, he said. Bucking party lines on confirmation votes “carries extreme political risks, and almost no political benefit” for senators, he said, noting he found Sotomayor and Kagan to have strong qualifications, high moral character, and the respect of the legal community.

“Outside political forces on both sides” have “monetized” opposition in an effort to appeal to political bases, he said. Cable news and partisan websites, for instance, allow activists to spread “a strident viewpoint to vast numbers.” Lugar suggested that view over time could have a corrosive effect on the political independence of the federal judiciary.

Lugar contrasted the heated battles over Supreme Court nominations to his early days in the Senate, when confirmations typically sailed through, sometimes without hearings or with nominal questioning from the Judiciary Committee. He said there are signs, though, that a foundation still exists to rebuild a nonpartisan confirmation process.

Speaking at the 7th Circuit Conference’s annual luncheon, Lugar used the occasion to also promote the post-legislative work he’s hoping to carry out through the Lugar Center in Washington, D.C., and his work with the University of Indianapolis, Indiana University and Georgetown University.

The Lugar Center, founded last month, aims to promote hallmarks of his legacy as a lawmaker: nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global food security and ensuring the effectiveness of international aid. Lugar, 81, was recently knighted as a Knight Commander of the British Empire for his work reducing weapons of mass destruction.

At the outset of his speech, Lugar paid tribute to former Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen, who died Saturday at age 95, and who Lugar called “a very good friend.”

“He meant so much to all of us in public life, and in private life,” Lugar said.


 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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