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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Alberto Gonzales
White House Counsel

July 7, 2004

Judge Gonzales is traveling with the President today and should be joining us very soon. Thank you for your questions and for your interest in this topic. To learn more about the issue, click here:

Alberto Gonzales

It is good to be with you today and to answer your questions from Air Force One. We had two very positive events that illustrates the President's strong commitment to filling the Judiciary with well qualified judges.

Neil, from Pennsylvania writes:
Are present federal judges having to do more because the federal government cannot agree on who to appoint and confirm for the many judicial vacancies across the country?

Alberto Gonzales
Right now, more than one-third (11) of the President's pending nominees (25) are waiting to fill vacancies that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has designated as "judicial emergencies." These "judicial emergencies" generally indicate that the vacancies are placing additional burdens on judges who are already carrying full case loads. The fact that these vacancies remain open can mean that cases are not resolved in a timely manner. A continuing judicial vacancy is a disservice to the American public.

Katy, from Portland writes:
Having recently passed the bar and being active in politics, I have a question for you. If you could go back and do this all again, would you? Is public service really worth it? To me it appears if you stand up for what you believe in, the other side will do anything to demonize you.

Personally, I think it's sad. I believe your administration is ethical and honest. And I'm not a card carrying Republican. Im an Independent. I have voted for both parties.

When I've thought about running for office, I shake my head. Has it been worth it for you and your family to serve?


Alberto Gonzales
Absolutely, public service is worth it. I've always said that lawyers have a special obligation to give back to the community. If you have the opportunity as a lawyer to go into public service, you should do it. I believe it will make you both a better lawyer and a better person.

Tom, from Georgia writes:
Why are we talking about judicial nominations when there are so many other pressing topics like the economy and Iraq?

Alberto Gonzales
Every day federal judges make decisions that are vitally important to both the average citizen, and to us as a nation. There are few decisions a President makes that are more important than the decision to put a man or woman on the bench. It is perhaps a President's most lasting legacy. Many of a President's policies and programs may be revised with a new Administration or Congress, but a President's decision to appoint a man or woman to the federal bench lasts a lifetime.

Rick, from Latrobe writes:
I thought you all had made some deal with the democrats on judicial nominations? Wasn't this supposed to be fixed?

Alberto Gonzales
The President reached an agreement with Senate Democrats to not exercise his constitutional authority to make recess appointments of district and circuit court judges through the end of his first term. In exchange, Senate Democrats agreed to allow up-or-down votes on 25 of the President's nominees by a date certain. This agreement did not preclude consideration of the President's other pending nominees. The President believes that each and every one of his nominees should receive a timely hearing and up-or-down vote in the Senate, and because it is so important to fill judicial vacancies, he will continue to fight for all of his nominees.

hasan, from boulder writes:
why is the nomination of these judges so contraversal?

Alberto Gonzales
A great majority of the President's nominees are not controversial. To date, the Senate has confirmed 88% of the President's nominees. Even the few judges who are being filibustered have the support of a majority of Senators and would be confirmed if given an up-or-down vote. It is important to note that 99 percent of the President's nominees have been rated "well-qualified" or "qualified" by the American Bar Association, and based on a recent non-partisan study, this President's nominees are considered, based on a review of ABA ratings, the the most qualified of any recent Administration.

Rich, from Alexandria writes:
Why are you standing by James Leon Holmes?

Alberto Gonzales
The American Bar Association rated Leon Holmes "well-qualified" based on his integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament. Leon Holmes has strong bipartisan support, particularly from those who know him best in Arkansas. We appreciate the fact that a majority of Senators approved of the President's judgment regarding Leon Holmes' qualifications to serve as a Federal District Judge.

Nancy, from Colorado writes:
What is the administration's position on the use of torture?

Alberto Gonzales
The President has stated that this Administration does not condone torture. If anyone engages in such conduct, he or she will be held accountable.

Randy, from Kenner, Louisiana writes:
This morning, President Bush discussed forcefully, senators including both on the democratic ticket, who block judicial nominations. They do so because of litmus test issues such as the sanctity of life, and refuse to allow an up or down vote. Why has the president not made this more of an issue? The two most important jobs of a president are that of Commander-in-Chief, and what kind of judicial nominations he makes to the Supreme Court, and to the federal appellate courts. The legacy of judicial nominations will live on 20 to 30 years after the president has left office. My question again is: Why do not hear this discussed? The only issues we hear about are: Iraq and the economy, and nothing else.

Alberto Gonzales
President Bush has demonstrated his strong commitment to getting his judicial nominees confirmed. He has mentioned his judicial nominees in nearly every speech he gives. He has held events at the White House to bring to the American people's attention the broken confirmation process and his proposal to fix it. He also has met with a number of his judicial nominees, which has highlighted the importance of getting highly qualified nominees confirmed.

Thomas, from Charlotte, North Carolina writes:
Judge Gonzales, How many names has President Bush submitted in nomination for a seat on the federal bench, (all courts) since taking office and, of those, how many have been confirmed and how many are still pending?

Thank you, sir.

Alberto Gonzales
The President has nominated 225 men and women to the federal bench; 198 have been confirmed, and 25 remain pending.

John, from Lowell, MA writes:
Judge Gonzales, Why do you feel there has been a holdup in the Senate of the Michigan and North Carolina judicial nominees? I would assume that if such nominees are qualified, they should naturally be confirmed without incident. Isnt that what is best for our nation?

Alberto Gonzales
Members of the Senate can decide to support or oppose a nominee for any reason, irrespective of qualifications. This President has sought to nominate people of the highest caliber, character, and integrity. All of the President's Michigan and North Carolina nominees have been rated "qualfied" or "well-qualified" by the ABA. The President believes that all should receive a prompt hearing and up-or-down vote in the Senate.

Anne, from Washington, DC writes:
How can the Judiciary Committee fairly evalute judicial nominees without

asking them how they would rule on particular issues or on hypothetical cases?

Alberto Gonzales
The Judiciary Committee should seek to approve judicial nominees who are well-qualified and will faithfully interpret the law, not rule in an outcome-determinative manner. In this country, we value the independence of our Judiciary. It would be inappropriate for a judicial nominee to forecast how he or she would rule on a particular legal issue. Judges base their decisions solely on the law, as applied to the particular facts of a case before them.

Ron, from Columbus, Ohio writes:
I watched President Bush speak in North Carolina today during my lunch hour. He complained that the Senator Edwards (NC) was unfairly obstructing the President's placement of a Federal Judge from North Carlina. Why is this it considered "obstructing" when Senator Edwards does but isn't when Senator Helms did the same to Clinton nominees to Judgeships? Or, was Senator Helms also obstructing progress as well? I need to be educated on how this process works.Thank you,

Columbus, Ohio

Alberto Gonzales
President Bush has said that the judicial confirmation is broken and has been so for some time. It is unfair for any Senator to block a judicial nominee -- all deserve timely up-or-down votes. To fix the broken confirmation process, the President has proposed a plan for timely consideration of judicial nominees that would apply no matter who is President or which party controls Congress.

William, from VA writes:
Judge Gonzales, Thank you for doing such a wonderful job for President Bush.

In the history of the U.S. Senate and the confirmation process, has there ever been a more obstructionist minority just bent on blocking judges and other presidential appointees for sake of making a political statement? It seems like some folks up there are trying to re-write the process.

Thank you.

Alberto Gonzales
Certainly, the use of filibusters to block qualified nominees is unprecedented. Six of the President's nominees who have the support of a majority of Senators and would be confirmed if given an up-or-down vote, are being blocked by a minority of Senators. As the President has said, "Every judicial nominee should receive an up-or-down vote in the full Senate, no matter who is President or which party controls the Senate. It is time to move past the partisan politics of the past, and do what is right for the American legal system and the American people."

Chaz, from Tacoma WA writes:
Can you explain why President Bush continues to state that the democrats in the Senate are using "obstructionist tactics" to block judicial nominees when in fact only three nominees have been blocked, and Clinton by comparison had 20 nominees blocked?

Please note that the Senate has confirmed 198 judges... a rate of confirmation higher than Clinton experienced (with 377 judges confirmed during his 8 years in office).

Alberto Gonzales
As I noted, six qualifed appeals court nominees who have the support of a majority of Senators and would be confirmed if given a vote, have been filibustered. This is unprecedented in the history of the Senate. In this Presidency, more appeals court nominees have had to wait longer than a year for a hearing than in the last fifty years combined.

Cody, from Ennis, MT writes:
Why did the president agree to letting some of his nominees stay filibustered just to get done what the law says to do anyway - vote on nominees? The President's nominees are good, well qualified people who all deserve a vote. Thank you

Alberto Gonzales
The agreement the President struck did not preclude consideration of all of his nominees, and he will continue to fight for each and every one.

Allen, from Cane Creek Missouri writes:
What's the deal with the pardons?

Alberto Gonzales
There were two pardons issued yesterday. We have a formal process in this Administration to present pardon recommendations to the President. It is a process which is extensive, involves multiple layers of attorneys within the Department of Justice and the White House. Based on the recommendations of these attorneys, the President decided that these two individuals were worthy of pardons.

Alberto Gonzales
Thank for you expressing interest in this important topic. Please go to this page ( /infocus/judicialnominees/ ) and review the issue. The President, as I said, has proposed a plan that would return fairness and dignity to the judicial confirmation process and would apply no matter who is President or which party controls the Senate.

Thanks for the questions. Looking forward to doing this again.

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