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January 30, 2003

Estrada- American Dream or Privileged Hack

In promoting the Appeals Court nomination of Miguel Estrada, the rightwing's stealthy pick for the Supreme Court, the Republicans are of course engaging in a massive appeal to apply affirmative action in accepting him.

Here is a very young candidate (only 41) with relatively little experience and almost no writings of note (any that exist from his days in the Justice Department are being withheld for fear of what they would reveal about his rightwing views).

So how do they sell him? As a Latino, purely and simply. Here is what the Wall Street Journal argued today:

When confirmed by the Senate, Miguel Estrada, a brilliant lawyer with extraordinary credentials, will be the first Hispanic on the second most prestigious court in the land. He will be a role model not just for Hispanics, but for all immigrants and their children. His is the great American success story.
I see-- Estrada's family must have come into the country with little but the clothes on their backs, yet their child has made it to wealth and political power?

Well, not exactly. Like the President who nominated him, Estrada was born on third base and likes to brag that he hit a triple. Back in Honduras where he was raised, his family was well-off and well-established. His father was also a lawyer and Estrada studied in private schools his whole life.

Nothing wrong with that per se, although it's reflective of conservative viewpoints that they think the American Dream is sliding from privileged public schools to rightwing patronage jobs into high office, while never having published or said anything of note before that point.

But selling that as "the American Dream" is an insult to families that have struggled and dealt with the real racism facing poor latinos every day.

Posted by Nathan at January 30, 2003 10:53 AM

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So your critique of Estrada's judicial qualifications is: he was born into wealth, therefore, should not be confirmed.

Deep thinking!

Posted by: Mark Harden at January 31, 2003 09:02 AM

What else is there? No experience to speak of, and his writings (as noted) are being carefully held back.

Is the American Dream that you can be born rich and get even richer, if you diligently clip coupons and share your wealth with Republicans in exchange for favors out of the public purse?

Deep pockets thinking!

Posted by: Kip at January 31, 2003 12:13 PM

his writings (as noted) are being carefully held back.

A policy endorsed by every living former Solicitor General, whether Democrat or Republican:

Although we profoundly respect the Senate's duty to evaluate Mr. Estrada's fitness for the federal judiciary, we do not think that the confidentiality and integrity of internal deliberations should be sacrificed in the process," the letter concluded.

http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/06/26/solicitors.general.estrada/

Posted by: Mark Harden at February 4, 2003 07:20 PM

Tell me: How did you manage to graduate from Yale Law School, and yet remain unaware that a Supreme Court clerkship and a partnership at one of the nation's most prestigious law firms -- positions that Estrada has held -- are not readily described as "relatively little experience" or as "right wing patronage jobs"?

On the other hand, perhaps you are well aware of Estrada's accomplishments, but simply choose to lie about them.

Posted by: Stuart Buck at February 7, 2003 09:41 AM

Oh yeah, I forgot -- Estrada was also an AUSA in the Southern District of NY, and an Assistant Soliticor General. He's held, in other words, just about every one of the most prestigious legal positions that a lawyer outside of the judiciary can have (except for professor at Harvard or Yale, perhaps).

But that's all just "relatively little experience" and "right wing patronage," right? What baloney.

Posted by: Stuart Buck at February 7, 2003 03:48 PM

Stuart-- keep saying "assistant" in front of every position. Yeah, he's had all the entry level positions possible for a no doubt smart young guy. Might even qualify him for a federal judgeship at the district level.

But getting an Appeals Court position is not for folks who have just had entry level training in a few plum positions. It's for folks who have a record of accomplishment or have written profoundly on the law. Estrada has done neither and claims not to have thought much at all about legal issues, at least according to what he testified at his confirmation hearing.

Which makes him either an idiot or a liar. Which like Thomas who claimed a similar position, yet immediately started spouting incredibly detailed and avante garde legal views, is no doubt the point of his stealth candidacy.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at February 7, 2003 06:08 PM

Entry level positions? You have got to be kidding. Did you really go to Yale Law School, or did you make up your online resume? How can you not know that Assistant Solicitor General is one of the most prestigious positions that a lawyer can obtain -- even for ex-Supreme Court clerks? How can you not know how difficult it is to get hired as an AUSA anywhere, let alone the most prestigious district in the country, SDNY? And partnership at a major law firm is nothing to sneeze at.

In other words, you are either deliberately lying when you say that Estrada has no "record of accomplishment," or you are the most oblivious person ever to graduate from an Ivy League law school. Talk to some of your classmates who tried and failed to get even one of Estrada's former positions (e.g., Supreme Court clerkships, of which Yale gets a handful per year).

Sheesh. This is unbelievable. I mean, oppose Estrada if you like. That's your prerogative. But don't spout this utter nonsense about him not having a record of accomplishment, or about AUSA or Assistant SG being "entry-level positions." Anyone who knows anything about those jobs will find your thesis completely absurd. If Estrada isn't "accomplished" enough to be an appellate judge, then no one is.

Posted by: Stuart Buck at February 8, 2003 05:03 PM

Hey-- I've been more explicit than most that I oppose Estada on ideology grounds and make no bones about it.

But all the positions you mention are still entry-level or early career positions, however prestigious they may be. And the fact that Estrada has been assisted along the way as the pet protege of the Federalist Society's pick for the Supreme Court just makes his accomplishments all the less impressive. If there was an agenda to move a stealth candidate quickly to a position to be on the Supreme Court (and there is plenty of evidence for it), supplying that stealth candidate with impressive credentials becomes less a reflection of personal merit than of that patronage.

Listing accomplishments by position is not impressive. Name an impressive body of writing by Estada-- lawyers write and are judged by that writing. Yet Estrada has almost no publicly available writing, which makes his public accomplishments as a lawyer non-public as well.

Which if he was seeking only non-public positions might be okay. But he is seeking a public office, so he should either supply copies of his impressive writing, or Senators should be able to assume it does not exist and refuse to confirm him.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at February 8, 2003 06:40 PM

I'm not going to waste much more time arguing here, but I will respond:

You say: "But all the positions you mention are still entry-level or early career positions, however prestigious they may be."

Nonsense. Partner at Gibson Dunn -- an entry-level position? Are you crazy? Try going to Gibson Dunn or any top 10 firm and ask to be made partner as your first job. And are you suggesting that to be named an appellate judge, the candidate has to have been the Solicitor General or a United States Attorney himself, as opposed to an Assistant in those positions? Practically no one would be qualified under your ridiculously high standards.


"And the fact that Estrada has been assisted along the way as the pet protege of the Federalist Society's pick for the Supreme Court just makes his accomplishments all the less impressive. If there was an agenda to move a stealth candidate quickly to a position to be on the Supreme Court (and there is plenty of evidence for it), supplying that stealth candidate with impressive credentials becomes less a reflection of personal merit than of that patronage."

Again, utter nonsense. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Federalist Society had anything to do with Estrada's Supreme Court clerkship, his AUSA position, much less his position in the SG's office during the _Clinton administration_. Give me a break with the conspiratorial bullshit. The guy is brilliant, and he obviously earned his way to the top of just about every possible legal job (except academia).

Posted by: Stuart Buck at February 9, 2003 12:01 AM

I'm sorry-- becoming one of the thousands of partnership drones at major law firms may reflect a good currying of the interests of corporate special interests, but most Americans would hardly see it as any particular mark deserving of judging the lives of other people.

And as for "conspiracy theories"-- give it a break. Of course Estrada is a patronage tool of the rightwing. With no written record anywhere in evidence, he is being discussed by the right to go on the Supreme Court. He is well-known to have extreme rightwing positions, yet he studiously has avoided allowing them to be published,

It is no conspiracy to say he is a sleath candidate of the rightwing, hiding his views until he can be propelled to a high judgeship position. We've seen it before with Clarence Thomas.

The vehemence with which the rightwing is pushing Estrada reflects that reality.

As I've said, I oppose Estrada not because of his lack of qualifications but because that deliberate lack of a paper trail is itself evidence of his role in that well-oiled rightwing machinery, carefully cultivated for this moment.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at February 9, 2003 07:26 AM

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