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For Immediate Release
May 9, 2001
Press Briefing Excerpts by Ari Fleischer 05/09/01
Q On the nominations today, has the President decided to hold back on nominating among two others, Congressman Chris Cox, in an attempt to mollify Democrats because of objections they have?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President today will nominate 11 people to the circuit court, people he believes are going to make superb jurists, people he chose because of their quality, their character, and because they will not legislate from the bench. The President will have additional announcements to make, of course, throughout the remaining weeks and months, throughout the remainder of his term, to fill other vacancies that exist in the courts. I can only discuss the people he has named. You'll have to stay tuned for any possible additional announcements.
Q But are you denying then that this original list included three additional names that were taken off in the late-going?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's only one list, and that list is the list of the people the President is announcing today.
Q So you think you can get away with not discussing at all who's notable in their absence?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is going to be making additional nominations throughout the weeks and months, and today he's naming these 11.
Q Are you saying politics had absolutely nothing to do with the names that the President will unveil today?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's focus today was naming people he believes are qualified to the bench, and doing so in a manner that is collegial and cooperative. There are people that we are discussing with different senators, Democrat senators, as well as Republican senators, and concerns have been expressed about some people. The President is going to continue to work with senators to allay any concerns they may have. Any future announcements will reflect the decisions that the President makes. He at all times reserves the right to name the people he thinks are most suited to serve on the bench to serve our nation.
Q But you clearly, in this case, clearly wanted a bipartisan list, because you're obviously trying to affect the climate on Capitol Hill, I assume.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks it's very important that the Congress, in this case the Senate, under its advice and consent clause, work closely with the White House on the naming of justices and judges to the courts. And the list that he has picked today is a reflection of how the President is going to name judges throughout his tenure. He's going to name leading jurists, people who won't legislate from the bench, people who are eminently qualified, and people with whom he has consulted with Democrats and Republicans alike, home state senators and others in the selection process.
Q When you say "won't legislate from the bench," how was that determined? What question was asked of the nominees to determine whether or not they were the kind of people who would not legislate from the bench?
MR. FLEISCHER: Jim, it's a matter of judicial temperament. You can look at the rulings justices have made; you can review their histories to see if they share the President's belief that the purpose of the judiciary is not to rewrite the laws that the elected body, the Congress, passes and that the President signs, but it is to be an impartial administrator of justice and not an activist who will legislate from the bench.
Q I think you have four people here who have not been on the bench previously, who were, in fact, activists. So how would people judge whether or not they would likely be activists --
MR. FLEISCHER: Because the President's analysis, in reviewing their qualifications and in concurrence with the White House Counsel, that these people reflect the President's belief that it's important not to legislate from the bench.
Q Obviously, they were asked something along those lines.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes -- I couldn't tell you every question put to each and every one of these 11. That's something you may want to check with the White House Counsel on for specifics on any of the four that you mentioned, for instance.
Q Ari, you were going to check on what role the President played. Did he talk to any of these nominees? How did he review their nominations?
MR. FLEISCHER: As with all personnel announcements that the President makes, the President meets on a two, three times a week basis with the people who are responsible for the searches of these people. In the case of the announcements today, he knows several of these people personally, already knew them, did not need additional meetings. There are some people he will announce today he has not met before, but he has reviewed their qualifications and discussed their background, their qualifications at length with the Office of White House Counsel.