Goodwin Liu

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Goodwin Liu

Justice Goodwin Liu is an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. He was confirmed to office by a unanimous vote of the California Commission on Judicial Appointments on August 31, 2011, following his appointment by Governor Jerry Brown on July 26, 2011. The Governor administered the oath of office to Justice Liu in a public ceremony in Sacramento, California on September 1, 2011. Before joining the court, Justice Liu was Professor of Law and former Associate Dean at the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall).


Goodwin Liu was married to Ann O'Leary, the daughter of a social worker and a union leader, who grew up in Orono, Maine. She was a senior policy adviser in the Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidential Campaign. On August 30, 2016 O'Leary and Liu announced in a joint statement that they were separating, as Liu had entered into a relationship with San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim. [1] Liu's father, Wenpen Liu, is active in Taiwanese politics and is a main organizer in the Democratic Progressive Party overseas and head of the Sacramento office of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.


The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Justice Liu grew up in Sacramento, where he attended public schools. He went to Stanford University and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1991. He attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship and earned a masters degree in philosophy and physiology. Upon returning to the United States, he went to Washington D.C. to help launch the AmeriCorps national service program and worked for two years as a senior program officer at the Corporation for National Service.

Justice Liu graduated from Yale Law School in 1998, becoming the first in his family to earn a law degree. He clerked for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then worked as Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, where he developed and coordinated K-12 education policy. He went on to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the October 2000 Term. In 2001, he joined the appellate litigation practice of O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C.

Justice Liu is a prolific and influential scholar on constitutional law and education policy. His 2006 article, “Education, Equality, and National Citizenship,” won the Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law, conferred by the Education Law Association. Justice Liu is also a popular and acclaimed teacher. In 2009, he received UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s most prestigious honor for individual excellence in teaching. The Boalt Hall Class of 2009 selected him as the faculty commencement speaker.

Justice Liu serves on the California Access to Justice Commission, the governing board of the American Law Institute, the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Bar Association Task Force on Financing Legal Education. He has previously served on the Board of Trustees of Stanford University and the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Excellent Education, the American Constitution Society, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Public Welfare Foundation.[2]


Liu went to Stanford University and earned a B.S. in biology. While at Stanford, he was active in student politics as a member of the Peoples Platform, serving on the Council of Presidents of the ASSU. He attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship and earned a M. Phil in philosophy and physiology. Liu received his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Law & Inequality Conference

Robert Hockett October 17, 2015:


Here's Gerald just before his panel discussion at this weekend's remarkable Law & Inequality Conference at YLS. How inspiring to present along with, and learn from, dear friends and comrades including David, Jedediah Purdy, Zephyr Teachout, Frank Pasquale, Daniel Markovits, Willy Forbath, Joey Fishkin, Goodwin Liu, and many others including beloved Cornell colleagues Gerald and Saule Omarova. Lina and her ACS colleagues were also superb - not only as organizers and administrators, but also as participants. Many warm thanks and congratulations, dear friends. — with Gerald Torres.

Failed nomination

On February 24, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Liu to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. For more than a year, Liu's nomination languished, amid significant opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Senate. On May 19, 2011, the Senate rejected cloture on Liu's nomination in a 52–43 vote,[3] and on May 25, 2011, Liu informed President Obama that he was withdrawing his name from consideration to the seat on the Ninth Circuit, telling the president that "With no possibility of an up-or-down vote on the horizon, my family and I have decided that it is time for us to regain the ability to make plans for the future.[3]

Committee of 100 support

On May 26, 2010, the Committee of 100 issued a statement in support of U.S. Senate confirmation of Goodwin Liu, whom President Obama has nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco. On May 13, Liu’s nomination was approved by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee by a party-line vote. If Liu is confirmed, he would be the third Chinese American and first Taiwanese American appellate court judge in U.S.

If confirmed, Liu would be the only Asian American appellate court judge in the Ninth Circuit, the region with highest APA population.

Committee Chair John Chen said, “C-100 urges the Senate to confirm Professor Goodwin Liu. His ascension to the bench would signal that talented people of all backgrounds are integral to our justice system.” Excerpts of the statement follow:

Consistent with its mission of advancing the participation of Chinese Americans in all aspects of public life in the United States, C-100 supports federal judicial nominations of Chinese Americans when the American Bar Association (ABA) gives the nominee its highest rating. C-100 is impressed that the ABA has given Professor Liu such a rating, indicated by a unanimous vote of well-qualified. The ABA is a nonpartisan organization, and conducts its comprehensive review without regard to political affiliation. Presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower have relied on the ABA’s evaluations in determining an individual’s fitness for nomination.

Professor Liu's upbringing is the realization of the American Dream. Professor Liu was born in Augusta, Georgia, to Taiwanese immigrants who came to the United States in the late 1960's when foreign doctors were being recruited to work in under-served areas. Living in Georgia and then Florida, Professor Liu did not learn to speak English until kindergarten because his parents worried that Liu and his brother would acquire an accent if they were taught at home. The family then moved to Sacramento in 1977, where he would eventually graduate as valedictorian of his public high school before attending Stanford University and studying at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship.

Professor Liu is eminently qualified to serve as a federal appellate court judge. Professor Liu is a distinguished graduate of Yale Law School and a former law clerk to Judge David S. Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was a Senior Program Officer for Higher Education at the Corporation for National Service in Washington, D.C., where he helped launch the AmeriCorps program. He also served as a Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary at the US. Department of Education, where he advised the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on a wide range of legal and policy issues. Professor Liu also has private sector experience as a former member of the litigation practice of O'Melveny & Myers in Washington D.C. He is the Associate Dean and Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, and is a renowned expert on educational and constitutional law.[4]

Peoples Platform

The Stanford Daily, April 16 1990
Stanford Daily, March 1990

In March 1990 COP Peoples Platform candidates were seniors Jamie Green, Goodwin Liu, Ingrid Nava and junior Jay Tucker.

Liu was coordinator of that year's You Can Make a Difference Conference.

Peoples Platform works "to increase its student support"

In 1991 the Peoples Platform will work to increase its student support during the upcoming ASSU spring elections while continuing to emphasize multiculturalism, party members said at an information February 28 1991.

Speaking to about 30 prospective candidates, Jenn Pearson, a junior, said, "The Peoples Platform is broadening out this year . . . but we also want to bring in other groups that are underrepresented on campus while maintaining the ideals established by the four [student of color organizations] who founded the party." The party is interviewing potential candidates this afternoon in the Tresidder Lounge, and candidates must submit application forms by Monday Next week, the Peoples Platform will hold a slating primary in which party members will vote to select Council of Presidents and Senate candidates. After outlining the history of the ASSU and the Peoples Platform, party members discussed issues they plan to emphasize during the election debates next month. Among the ideas they will propose include an expansion of multiculturalism, trying to influence the federal re-evaluation of universities' financial aid and a change of location and focus for the Women's Center.

The Peoples Platform plans to create a coalition involving various student groups, faculty, administrators, parents and alumni to "take an active stand" against President Bush's proposed revision of the 1965 Higher Education Act, said ASSU senator Naomi Onaga, a senior. The party will also support the proposed move of the Women's Center from its current location next to the Toyon eating clubs to the first floor of the Fire Truck House, beneath the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community Center, to "brinr it to the center of campus," Pearson said. Pearson added that she hopes the move will change the current attitude among some people that the center is a "quasi-upper-class, white, feminist group" and help them understand that it is an organization that brings together all women on campus.

Party officials said the People's Platform will work to make the concept of multiculturalism a more significant issue in this year's election than in those of past years. Last year, both parties claimed to support multiculturalism, and it was "hard to use multiculturalism as a distinguishing point," said senior Goodwin Liu, a Council of Presidents member. "This year it is important not just to support multiculturalism but to define how to make it work," Liu added. "We need to make multiculturalism accessible to everyone but not water it down." Party members also used the meeting to defend the People's Platform against various charges from other parties. In response to a question about political correctness, sophomore

Nicole Johnson said, "Being politically correct means saying the right thing but not knowing why. Members of the People's Platform understand the philosophies, goals and visions of the party, have a place in it and do it — not because they think that it is right but because they know it is right." Members also defended the party's support of continuing ASSU Senate debate on national issues. "It is really important to look beyond the Farm and make the connection between students ai?d national issues, such as the draft counseling that occurred during the war," Pearson said.[5]


  1. [1]
  2. Harvard Law School bio
  3. [Dahlia Lithwick (May 25, 2011). "Goodwin Liu Withdraws". Slate]
  4. [2]
  5. [The Stanford Daily, Volume 199, Issue 19, 1 March 1991]