November 1, 2017
This morning, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse opened the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing to consider the nomination of Steve Grasz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Sasse's remarks, as prepared for delivery, are found below:
First I want to say thank you to Chairman Grassley for letting a rookie chair the hearing this morning.
These confirmation hearings are special because they are opportunities to celebrate some of the best parts of American Civics.
These are opportunities to teach our kids about the meaning of America, about our Constitution, and about the differences and limits of what judges vs. legislators can do in their respective callings.
We are well-served to remind ourselves and our constituents that in the United States there are no Republican or Democratic judges on federal courts.
If self-government means anything, it means that people who write laws can be voted out of office. That’s why the Constitution puts Congress in charge of writing the laws. My colleagues and I here in the Article 1 branch of government are lawmakers, not judges – and thus we can rightly be fired by the people.
At the same time, if the rule of law means anything, it means that courts who decide cases must be dispassionate and impartial. Two things matter: the law and the facts. When someone comes before the court their gender, their skin, their faith, their personal political views do not matter. In the same way, a judge’s gender, skin, faith, and personal political views cannot decide your case.
A good judge is not a Republican. A good judge is not a Democrat. A good judge is faithful to their oath to the Constitution and to the law, mindful of the facts, and committed to independence.
I hope, for the sake of public trust and civic health, all of us on this panel on both sides would agree, and to that end I would like to begin my comments on Steve Grasz in the spirit of bipartisanship with the words of President Obama’s U.S. Attorney for Nebraska, Deborah Gilg.
"Steve has always enjoyed a reputation for honesty, impeccable integrity and dedication to the rule of law," she wrote to this committee. Steve "possesses an even temperament well-suited for the bench and always acts with respect to all that interact with him."
In my experience with Steve, that’s exactly right.
Steve is a Nebraskan through and through. He’s a fifth-generation Nebraskan and like a lot of Nebraska kids, he grew up on a family farm – walking beans, raising sheep and pigs, branding cattle. That family farm in the Nebraska Panhandle taught hard work and honesty. The University of Nebraska taught him the law.
He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When he was a sophomore, he shared an umbrella with a lovely young woman at a Nebraska-Auburn football game (we won by the way). Verlyne is here with us today along with their four kids. They have been married for thirty-two years.
Steve stayed in Nebraska for law school, graduated at the top of his class, and was the Executive Editor of the Nebraska Law Review.
Steve went to work for Nebraskans, serving as the Chief Deputy Attorney General for more than a decade.
He litigated multiple cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Whenever he was called on to argue on behalf of Nebraskans, Steve did so with integrity, humility, and decency.
Steve bleeds Husker red but knows that a judge must clothe themselves in the black robes of impartiality.
If Steve wanted to advance a policy agenda, I’m confident he would have run for office. But he didn’t. He’s here because he’s committed to an independent judiciary where fair and honest judges rule on the law and the facts. He’s here because he’s committed to an Article III branch that considers each case under law – not under what the judge wishes the law said.
That’s why he’s here. That’s why we’re here. Because although we have different duties – one to legislate, one to judge – we have the same responsibility to uphold our constitution. I believe that Steve is ready to do that job. I would hope that my colleagues in this committee are ready to do ours.