THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to go to the White House. The president of the United States has just stepped into the East Room. The subject: Federal judicial appointments by the Bush administration. Let's listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today's his birthday.
Also, Judge Al Gonzales is here. Judge Gonzales is a great friend of mine who, fortunately, is my lawyer and is a part of the process -- judicial selection process.
Thank you for being here, Judge.
I'm also honored to welcome members of the United States Senate who are here to welcome the nominees to Washington. Of course, Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of Judiciary, as well as Senator Patrick Leahy, ranking member on the Judiciary.
Good to see you men. Thank you both for coming.
John Warner, George Allen, George Voinovich, and last but not least, Senator Strom Thurmond. Welcome.
BUSH: Thank you all for coming.
I'm pleased to welcome my judicial nominees to the White House, and I'm pleased to welcome their family and friends as well.
This is a proud moment for all of you, and it's a proud moment for me as well.
A president has few greater responsibilities than that of nominating men and women to the courts of the United States. A federal judge holds a position of great influence and respect and can hold it for a lifetime.
When a president chooses a judge, he is placing in human hands the authority and majesty of the law. He owes it to the Constitution and to the country to choose with care. I have done so. With me this afternoon are my first 11 judicial nominees, individuals of experience and character.
Four of them serve as United States District judges. All four confirmed by unanimous votes. Two others are sitting judges on state supreme courts. Four have served as law clerks in the Supreme Court of the United States. One has served here as an associate counsel to the president. One already holds the position for which I nominate him by recess appointment of President Clinton.
These men and women have followed different paths to this nomination. They come from diverse backgrounds and will bring a wide range of experience to the bench. All have sterling credentials and have met high standards of legal training, temperament and judgment. As a group, they command broad bipartisan support among those who know them and who have served with them.
I submit their names to the Senate with full confidence that they will satisfy any test of judicial merit. These first nominations are also an opportunity to outline the standards by which I will choose all federal judges. The American people expect judges of the highest caliber and my nominees will meet that test.
A judge, by the most basic measure, has an obligation shared by the president and members of Congress. All of us are constitutional officers sworn to serve within the limits of our Constitution and laws. When we observe those limits, we exercise our rightful power. When we exceed those limits, we abuse our powers. Every judge I appoint will be a person who clearly understands the role of a judge is to interpret the law, not to legislate from the bench.
To paraphrase the third occupant of this house, James Madison, the courts exist to exercise not the will of men, but the judgment of law. My judicial nominees will know the difference. Understanding this will make them more effective in the defense of rights guaranteed under the Constitution, the enforcement of our laws and more effective in assuming that justice is done to the guilty and for the innocent.
My standard is informed by the oath that each judge will take, to administer justice without respect to persons and to do equal right to poor and to the rich. A good judge exercises these powers with discernment, courage and humility. These are commitments not just of philosophy, but of character. My nominees today and in the years to come will be notable for their distinction and accomplishments, and all will be exceptional for their humanity and their integrity.
With today's 11 nominees, we continue a constitutional process that involves all three branches of government. For many weeks now we have sought and received advice from senators of both parties. I now submit these nominations in good faith, trusting that good faith will also be extended by the United States Senate.
Over the years, we have seen how the confirmation process can be turned to other ends. We have seen political battles played out in committee hearings, battles that have little to do with the merits of the person sitting before the committee. This is not good for the Senate, for our courts or for the country.
There are today over 100 vacancies on the federal courts causing backlogs, frustration and delay of justice. I urge senators of both parties to rise above the bitterness of the past, to provide a fair hearing and a prompt vote to every nominee. That should be the case for no matter who lives in this house and no matter who controls the Senate.
I ask for the return of civility and dignity to the confirmation process. And with this distinguished group of nominees awaiting confirmation, there is no better opportunity than right now.
I congratulate all of you on your service past and for your service to come.
WATERS: President Bush announcing his first nominations to the federal bench; 11 of them, seven of whom are sitting judges, six are women or minorities, and the president making a point of saying the pattern of the past of one party attacking the other's judicial nominations must end.
Watching all of this from Washington with us IS our national -- senior national correspondent Charles Bierbauer. Does this list, Charles, indicate that some care was taken to avoid some of these battles that we have seen in past over judicial nominations?
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it does. It has avoided three names that have been much mentioned as candidates for the judicial courts, one of whom is Congressman Cox, and they are very conservative members, ones who would certainly provoke opposition, perhaps, on the Senate floor and certainly public opposition, but that doesn't mean that this is a safe set of nominees.
I have been talking to people around, town particularly some of the liberal groups who say, and let me quote from Ralph Neas from People for the American Way, who says: "The strategy is clever, but transparent; that is to say, by leaving out the most controversial potential judges and by including, for example, Judge Gregory, who is now sitting the 4th Circuit, an African-American, even at the same time President Bush is naming two other conservatives to that same 4th Circuit."
So, it will be a test. This is really going to be round one of the Bush administration in trying to get judicial nominees to the court. Eleven of the 31 appellate court vacancies, and, of course, we haven't even approached the possibility of a Supreme Court nominee yet.
WATERS: Judge Gregory, whom you've mentioned, it's worth noting this is the first time in at least 50 years a president resubmitted a nominee first proposed by president of an opposing party. We all recall that Judge Gregory was appointed during a congressional recess, and he's been renominated by President Bush. But that having been said, are there any lightning rods here, things to watch for? BIERBAUER: Well, I think you have to watch for whether any individual is selected or whether the opposition comes to them as group. There are certainly some quite conservative individuals here, some of whom I get to see quite frequently when they argued before the Supreme Court, such as Jeffrey Sutton, an Ohio attorney who has been selected for the 6th Circuit, which includes the state of Ohio.
He has argued and won a number of cases before the Supreme Court dealing with federalism in which, for example, the states were ruled they could not be sued under the Disabilities Act or Age Discrimination Acts. So, he's taken very conservative viewpoints. That's one potential target, but it's possible that the Democrats would go at them collectively. We don't know that yet. The tactics have not yet played out here.
WATERS: And if you would, explain to us blue slips. This is something about which Senate Democrats have been fighting with the White House and Senate Republicans. We're going to hear a lot more about that. Explain that to us please.
BIERBAUER: If I can, in the shortest possible way, a blue slip is one that the senator from the state in which the nominee is coming would submit his blue slip, sign off and say it's OK with me. In the past, the practice has been to collect blue slips from both senators in a single state.
Senator Orrin Hatch, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, says he'd be happy with just one blue slip, one OK. That starts to present problems where you have state such as North Carolina, where there is a Republican and Democrat.
The example being given there one of the nominees, Judge Boyle, who is now sitting on the district court may be opposed by Senator Edwards, the Democrat down there. He may withhold his blue slip, and that, theoretically, is to prevent the case for the nominee from being brought up for confirmation. We don't know now whether one blue slip is good enough or whether it's going to take two. This is senatorial maneuvering, Lou.
WATERS: And so the political games begin with President Bush's first judicial nominations. Charles Bierbauer, thank you, and we will continue to follow that story.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com