Nov 01 2017

Fischer Introduces Nebraskan Steve Grasz at Senate Judiciary Hearing

Grasz is President Trump’s Nominee to Fill Seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Click here or on the image above to view Senator Fischer’s remarks.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today delivered remarks introducing Nebraskan Leonard (Steve) Grasz at his nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Following recommendations from Fischer and Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), President Trump nominated Grasz to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in August.

During her remarks today, Fischer highlighted the effusive praise and bipartisan respect for Mr. Grasz across the state of Nebraska. She also responded to the American Bar Association’s conclusion that Grasz is “not qualified” to serve on the Eighth Circuit, calling the association’s report a “baseless political character assassination.”

Below is the full transcript of Senator Fischer’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, on behalf of Steve Grasz this morning:

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am honored to be here today to speak in support of Leonard (Steve) Grasz, who has been nominated by President Trump to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

For 16 years, Chief Judge William Jay Riley – a Nebraskan – served ably on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

In January 2017, Chief Judge Riley notified me and Senator Sasse that he would be taking senior status in the upcoming months.

Senator Sasse and I conducted an open process and invited Nebraskans to express their interest in the position.

Nebraska’s legal community touts an impressive list of accomplishments. However, one name consistently stood out in our search.

After extensive consultation, it was clear Steve Grasz was the only candidate Senator Sasse and I wanted to recommend to President Trump for this judgeship.

Steve grew up on his family’s grain and livestock farm near Chappell in the Nebraska Panhandle. As a fifth-generation Nebraskan, he raised cattle, sheep and pigs; he irrigated corn and baled hay.

He graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Agriculture Honors Program.

Steve then attended law school at the University of Nebraska College of Law, where he finished at the top of his class, was an executive editor of the Nebraska Law Review, and won awards for his oral advocacy and writing skills.

Steve has an impressive list of professional achievements earned during his distinguished career in appellate litigation that spans nearly three decades.

He is currently Senior Counsel at Husch Blackwell in Omaha, where he has worked since 2002.

He has handled numerous major constitutional litigation matters in the Nebraska Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Steve also gave 12 years of dedicated service to the State of Nebraska, serving as its Chief Deputy Attorney General. In that role, he devoted himself to defending the laws of the state and its citizens.

Furthermore, Steve Grasz is highly respected by his colleagues.

For many years, Steve earned the very highest peer rating available – AV Preeminent. This peer-reviewed rating is based on legal knowledge and ethical standards.

Given Steve’s extensive legal experience, I was shocked to hear the American Bar Association concluded Steve is “Not Qualified” to serve on the Eighth Circuit.

I was not alone in my surprise.

The President of the Nebraska State Bar Association, Timothy Engler, wrote to the Committee “to clarify that the Nebraska State Bar Association was not involved in the recommendation made by the American Bar Association concerning the appointment of Steve Grasz.”

While the Nebraska Bar Association itself does not, as a policy, offer ratings or recommendations, Mr. Engler noted his own personal view that he always found Steve “to be professional, civil, and ethical in all respects” and that he “would have no questions regarding his judicial temperament as a member of the Judiciary.”

Mr. Engler’s characterization of Mr. Grasz’s temperament, ethics, and ability are entirely consistent with the feedback Senator Sasse and I received from all across our state.

And so I am sad to say that after thoroughly examining the substance of the ABA’s report, it is evident to me that the ABA evaluation of Mr. Grasz was a baseless political character assassination.

Colleagues, for a moment I would like to highlight the individuals who performed this so-called analysis – individuals with their own political convictions.

Dean Emeritus Cynthia Nance, the primary ABA evalauator, received multiple awards from affiliates of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

Mr. Laurence Pulgram, the secondary evaluator, has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic political campaigns over the past decade.

Neither of these activities – association with political organizations or financially supporting candidates – are shameful.

Indeed, they are integral to our democracy.

And so, for these two individuals to suggest that Steve’s participation in the democratic process or his passionate advocacy while serving as Deputy Attorney General for the State of Nebraska are somehow disqualifying to serve on the bench appears to me to be the height of hypocrisy.

Moreover, alleged criticism of Mr. Grasz came from anonymous sources.

As my friend from Connecticut – a senior member of this committee – Senator Blumenthal stated in 2006 regarding Vanessa Bryan’s not qualified rating, quote “I have even greater concern with the credibility of anonymous sources when those sources are used as evidence for a subjective characteristic such as judicial temperament….I urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to only consider anonymous criticisms when such criticisms can be verified from other sources.”

In their analysis, the evaluators did not cite a single concrete example in their purported “clear, consistent” pattern of criticism levied against Mr. Grasz.

And, needless to say, there was no corroboration from other sources.

In fact, they failed to identify exactly what comprised this pattern or insinuation of bias.

While they dismissively noted support of Mr. Grasz, they claimed it was not enough to quote “dissuade them.”

I have to ask – why not?

Throughout our comprehensive vetting of Steve’s credentials, we did not come across one single temperament issue.

To the contrary, Nebraskans are effusive in their praise of Steve’s temperament, integrity, and character. The record will show that.

Senator Sasse and I have received numerous letters of recommendation on Steve’s behalf – from government officials and church pastors, business and community leaders, and Steve’s friends and neighbors.

Nebraskans across the political spectrum notes, in detail, Steve’s thoughtfulness, his fair-mindedness, his high ethical standards, and his brilliant abilities as an attorney.

Importantly, this respect for Steve is bipartisan.

Deborah Gilg, the former U.S. Attorney for Nebraska appointed by President Obama, wrote to this Committee that “Steve has always enjoyed a reputation for honesty, impeccable integrity, and dedication to the rule of law. He possesses an even temperament well-suited for the bench and always acts with respect to all that interact with him.”

I strongly urge the members of the committee to recognize this ABA evaluation for what it is: a biased, baseless attempt filled with vagaries and innuendo intended to damage Steve’s outstanding legal reputation.

I am confident, and Nebraskans are confident, that Steve will faithfully uphold the Constitution and will apply the law neutrally, equally, and fairly to all people.

I urge my Senate colleagues to support Steve Grasz’s nomination so the American people can benefit from his exceptional intellect, skill, and judgment.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.