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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Why'd some rabid Dems vote for Griffith, and "moderate" Dems against him?

Edward Whelan, writing on NRO's Bench Memos blog, points to peculiarities in the roll-call vote on the confirmation of Thomas Griffith to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:

It should come as no surprise to learn that Bayh, Byrd, Johnson, Landrieu, and Salazar were on one side, and Biden, Dodd, Durbin, Levin, and Schumer on the other. But what was a surprise — to me, at least — is that the former set of five more moderate Democrats voted against Griffith’s nomination, and the latter set of five very liberal Democrats voted for the nomination.

I'm by no means "closer to the Griffith confirmation battle" than Ed, but I'm going to hazard a guess as to an explanation anyway.

The main objection to Mr. Griffith's nomination was his bar status — his arguable practicing of law in Utah without a proper license there, and his neglect in ensuring that subordinates had properly paid the fees to maintain his license in the D.C. Bar.  Although I was briefly on an unauthorized practice of law committee of the State Bar of Texas some years ago, I'm not a real expert in that subject. But from what I know of it and of Mr. Griffith's situation, I'm inclined to accept that since he wasn't regularly appearing in court in Utah, and since his "office practice" as an in-house university lawyer there was conducted along with licensed Utah lawyers, the first criticism isn't valid. I think the second is a far more troubling problem, however, given how long it persisted. It was a serious lapse in professional diligence on his part. But I think it's ultimately excusable in, and outweighed by, the context of his entire career and record, and I'd have voted to confirm him were I a senator.

Whether valid and outcome-determinative or not, however, these criticisms aren't issues of politics, ideology, and judicial philosophy, but of personal competence and professional character. If one credits Bayh, Byrd, Johnson, Landrieu, and Salazar with principled concern for personal competence and professional character, that could explain their votes.

No one, however, would ever be confused into believing that Biden, Dodd, Durbin, Levin, or Schumer care much about anything except their party's success on matters of politics and ideology. Their votes were cynically political, a recognition that the Griffith fight was a loser for their side; and as such, solely to reduce the public perception of monolithic Democratic opposition to Dubya's judicial nominees, they threw their votes to the "aye" side without regard to Mr. Griffith's individual merits and problems.

My instinct toward snark as a blogger counsels against ever ascribing principle to any political opponents. But that would explain the "moderate" Democrats' votes. Snarky instincts and my willingness to sometimes rise above them notwithstanding, however, you'll never persuade me that the normally rabid group came to a measured, sincere conclusion that Mr. Griffith is duly qualified and that they therefore should put aside partisan politics to confirm him. That a rabid dog didn't bite one potential victim does not mean the dog has been cured, even temporarily, of its rabies.

Posted by Beldar at 10:02 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


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(1) ttyler5 made the following comment | Jun 15, 2005 2:47:45 PM | Permalink

Bayh, Byrd et al haven't exactly run up a great score card on voting for Bush's nominees anyway, have they?

(2) Josh Narins made the following comment | Jun 20, 2005 12:15:07 PM | Permalink

I would think it would have more to do with Griffiths role as the lead legal counsel for "impeach clinton over the dress!" maneuvers.

Well after the event Griffiths admits he still wished Clinton had been impeached.

Real fair and impartial of him, eh?

As a matter of partisan politics, his illegal practicing without a license seems far, far less consequential.

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