Republicans thought they had killed off five of President Obama’s judicial nominees over the August recess through a quirk in Senate rules, but now the Judiciary Committee will be considering the nominees anew after Obama re-nominated them.
Included in the five is Robert Chatigny, notable for vehemently fighting for confessed serial killer Michael Ross, a.k.a. the “Roadside Strangler.”
In 1995, after 18 years on death row, Ross instructed his lawyer to stop appealing his scheduled execution; he’d already admitted to the murder of eight women — seven of whom he’d raped — and was ready to accept his punishment.
But Chatigny, then a federal district judge, would have nothing of it. Threatening to seek the disbarment of Ross’ attorney, Chatigny aggressively browbeat the lawyer into claiming that Ross – who went to Cornell University — was somehow too incompetent to accept his sentence.
Chatigny’s actions in the Roadside Strangler case caused a brutal hearing in April when a contrite Chatigny apologized dozens of times to Senate Republicans who posed difficult questions about his judgment.
But Chatigny’s nomination has been buoyed by the unlikely support of Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general for George W. Bush.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said of the Roadside Strangler case that Chatigny “acted to ensure that the justice system considered all relevant evidence before taking irreversible action to carry out a death penalty.” He also noted that Ross was later executed, “once due process was satisfied.”
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had also killed the nominations for four others in August, which Obama has also since renominated. A total of 16 nominations will be considered at the hearing on Thursday.
The other contentious nominees are Goodwin Liu, nominee for the 9th Circuit, Edward Chen, nominee for the Northern District of California, Louis Butler, nominee for the Western District of Wisconsin, and Jack McConnell, nominee for the District of Rhode Island.
Liu has articulated a strongly held view of a “living constitution,” explaining that judges find the “culturally and historically contingent meanings” in the Constitution that apply in today’s circumstances.
Leahy said Liu “has a brilliant legal mind, and is admired by legal thinkers and academic scholars from across the political spectrum.”
A former staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, Chen once stated his he believes “judges have to make determinations that draw not so much upon legal acumen, but on an understanding of people and of human experiences.”
Butler earned, and embraced, the nickname “Loophole Louie,” and found a manufacturer liable for injuries from a product that, as a dissent to the decision noted, the manufacturer “may or may not have produced, which may or may not have caused the plaintiff’s injuries, based on conduct that may have occurred over 100 years ago when some of the defendants were not even part of the relevant market.”
A spokeswoman for the committee said it was unclear whether the nominees, if reported out of committee, would be considered on the Senate floor before Congress leaves to campaign in the next two weeks.