07.24.14

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Judicial Nominations

Today, we will vote to end the filibuster against the nomination of Pamela Harris to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  She is a highly accomplished lawyer with excellent legal credentials, and has the strong support of her home state Senators, Senator Mikulski and Senator Cardin.  Her nomination received the American Bar Association’s highest rating of unanimously well qualified. 

Pam Harris is currently a visiting professor at my alma mater, Georgetown University Law Center.  In her diverse career she has served in the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, as a partner in private practice, as a Professor at University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the Executive Director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown.  After graduating from Yale Law School, she served as a law clerk to Judge Harry Edwards on the D.C. Circuit, and Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court.  She is beyond qualified—an experienced appellate practitioner with background in both criminal and civil litigation, and a command of the law that rivals that of any lawyer in the United States.

Some partisans have tried to misrepresent her past statements in order to caricature her.  This account of her record is simply unrecognizable to those individuals who actually know Pam Harris, and who know that as a judge she would be committed to the rule of law.  Many lawyers who have practiced with Pam Harris have written in support of her nomination, including many prominent Republicans who are respected in the legal community.

One letter, signed by more than 80 of her professional peers, including Gregory Garre, the former U.S. Solicitor General for President George W. Bush reads, “We are lawyers from diverse backgrounds and varying affiliations, but we are united in our admiration for Pam's skills as a lawyer and our respect for her integrity, her intellect, her judgment, and her fair-mindedness.” 

Another letter of support from a number of current and former partners at O’Melveny and Myers LLP, including A.B. Culvahouse, who served as White House Counsel during the Reagan administration and Walter Dellinger, who served as Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel and Acting U.S. Solicitor General during the Clinton administration reads, “Although we may not all share Pam’s views on a range of legal and political issues, we are united in the belief that Pam possesses the intellect, fair-mindedness, humility, and fundamental decency to make an excellent federal judge.” 

I ask that these and other letters of support received for Pam Harris’ nomination be entered into the Record.

When asked about her judicial philosophy at her nomination hearing she testified that “the role of a judge is to decide cases through impartial application of law and precedent.  It is a limited role…they decide the concrete disputes in front of them with attention to particular facts, attention to the arguments of the parties and their briefs, and by applying law and precedent to those facts.” 

Both her testimony and the letters of bipartisan support for her nomination demonstrate that Pam Harris has a clear understanding of the role of a judge, and make clear her commitment to follow Supreme Court precedent and to uphold the Constitution.  I believe Pam Harris will be an outstanding judge, and she has my full support.  I urge all Senators to vote to end this filibuster and confirm Pam Harris to serve on the Fourth Circuit. 

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