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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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