TRANSCRIPT: Majority Leader Schumer Remarks At Senate Judiciary Committee Introducing Eunice Lee, His Recommendation To The Second Circuit Court Of Appeals

June 9, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke delivered remarks at the Senate Judiciary Committee and introduced Eunice Lee to be a Judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

I have the pleasure to introduce Eunice Lee. She is an incredible public servant to be nominated to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, where she will succeed the great Judge Robert Katzman, a model public servant who took senior status this year after more than two decades on the Second Circuit.

Ms. Lee is the daughter of an air force veteran, born on-base in West Germany, Ms. Lee is a first-generation college student who graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State before receiving her J.D. from Yale Law School.

Beyond that, she hasn’t taken the typical path to the seat she now occupies—a nominee for the Second Circuit, which we in New York believe is the most important circuit court. Ms. Lee is not a former prosecutor or a product of a big corporate law firm. Instead, Ms. Lee spent her entire career in public service, dedicating herself to representing those criminal defendants who cannot afford counsel. If confirmed, she would be the only federal defender among the Second Circuit’s active judges—the only one.

And let me take a note here, Mr. Chairman. I recommended her to President Biden and not only because she was outstanding, but because we want to bring a great diversity of experience as well as other reasons for diversity, racial and religious, LGBTQ, et cetera. But we want experience diversity.

And I have been proud now to have asked two people to join the Second Circuit, and asked President Biden to nominate them: Ms. Lee and now, of course, a second nominee who was the leading voting rights defender from the Brennan Institute, Myrna Pérez.

And so, we are changing who sits on the bench. It’s not just going to be partners in fancy law firms or prosecutors, but people who have that diverse experience, and Ms. Lee personifies not only excellence as a lawyer but that diverse experience.

She is currently a member of the Federal Defenders. She has spent more than two decades in the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York, she has representing nearly 400 indigent clients on direct appeal and in post-conviction proceedings, as well as in federal habeas corpus petitions. She has argued cases both at the state level and before the Second Circuit. Over the course of her career Ms. Lee has helped defendants receive fairer sentences, get fairer treatment during incarceration, made sure their constitutional right to counsel was not infringed.

You know, we’ve all heard those words in the Miranda Warning: “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.” It is one of those fundamental rights we have here in a democratic society, our great democratic society, and along with the Fifth Amendment, it’s vital to the fairness of our judicial system. But it takes dedicated public servants—lawyers willing to work longer hours for lower pay—to make those rights real in American courtrooms every day.

That’s Ms. Lee—someone who has dedicated her career to making sure that “equal justice under law” is faithfully applied, for the impoverished as well as the privileged. Eunice Lee would bring a unique breath of fresh air to a federal bench that has sorely lacked the perspective of lawyers like her.

And I just want to say to Ms. Lee and to the audience here: she will not be the only person from this type of background. There will be many more. I mentioned Myrna Pérez. Dale Ho, I just suggested President Biden nominate him to the Southern District of New York. He’s the leading voting rights lawyer of the ACLU. And there will be many more!

The bench will be filled with appointments that will restore the balance that we believe has shifted way over to the hard-right during the Trump years. But it will also shift in terms of experience, and represent much more of America than it had represented in the past, under our Democratic majority and under President Biden.

So let me just conclude, again, with some of Ms. Lee’s great qualifications.  She’s been described by her colleagues as a brilliant advocate, a first-rate legal writer, a natural teacher and a mentor. She’s also been an adjunct professor at New York University, and her clinic on criminal appellate advocacy—which she designed herself—is one of the courses in highest demand at the law school. And when I met with her, I saw for myself the breadth of her knowledge but also her measured, judicious approach to the law. So she combines that experience with the understanding that you always have to try to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Just this week, a group of over 70 former New York federal prosecutors—the folks who often found themselves on the opposite side of Ms. Lee—called her a “brilliant, accomplished advocate, who is supremely well qualified to serve on the bench.”

Again, those were the folks who came up against Ms. Lee, urging this Committee to confirm her. I can’t think of a higher compliment.

The Committee should also be aware that if confirmed, Ms. Lee would break another barrier. She would become only the second African American Woman to ever sit on the Second Circuit. After four years of confirming nominees that were predominantly male and predominantly white, we have a lot of work to do to make sure the federal judiciary reflects the diversity of our nation.

As the Senator from New York, as I mentioned, as well as the Senate Majority Leader, it is my intent to recommend, and work to confirm, judges who would bring both demographic but also professional diversity to the bench.

Expanding the range of experiences and perspectives on the bench strengthens the public’s trust in our judiciary system and strengthens the court’s ability to apply the law fairly and impartially.

Ms. Lee’s confirmation would do precisely that for the prestigious and important Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

She carries my fervent and strongest recommendation. Thank you Mr. Chairman, and it’s good to see you as Mr. Chairman over there.