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Elena Kagan: Would she turn Supreme Court into We the People?

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Mr. Obama recently nominated Goodwin Liu, whom The New York Times called a "liberal legal rock star," to the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Professor Liu, a 39-year-old University of California, Berkeley, law professor, has faced the kind of Republican Senate scrutiny reserved for lower-court nominees whose confirmations appear to be little more than steppingstones to the Supreme Court.

In endorsing Liu, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) trumpets on its website his many qualifications, then states that the "confirmation of Professor Liu would help promote diversity in the federal judiciary, where Asian Pacific Americans are significantly underrepresented." Such a broad reason for support could as easily apply to Dinh, despite his and Liu's ideological differences.

But while NAPABA has taken no stand on whether diversity's value is aesthetic or experiential, Billy Chan, the Asian-American Bar Association president, has sided with Sotomayor's now-disavowed speech. "[Liu] brings more than his superior qualifications as a lawyer and a teacher. He brings his perspective as a person of color raised and working in the United States," wrote Mr. Chan in an April letter to the editor in the San Francisco Chronicle.

He chided conservatives for assuming "judges can magically remove themselves from life experience and make decisions purely on the facts and the law ... [they] are affected by their background and life experience as well as their intellectual analysis, and it is unrealistic to pretend otherwise."

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