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Cotton Introduces Circuit Judge Nominee to Senate Judiciary Committee

Contact: Caroline Tabler or James Arnold (202) 224-2353 March 13, 2019

Earlier today, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) introduced Kenneth Kiyul Lee as a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Click here to watch his remarks in full. In addition, a full transcript of his remarks can be found below.

Thank you Mr. Chairman, Senator Feinstein, members of the committee, I am honored to introduce my old friend, Ken Lee, as a nominee to be Circuit Judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. I hope I haven't hereby doomed his chances.

Joining us today is Ken's wife, Melissa, and his mother, Joyce. Ken and Melissa's girls, Alessandra & Sophia, couldn't make it. Sadly, neither could Ken's father, Stan, who passed away in 2010 after a battle with cancer. But I know how proud he is looking down on his son today-and for very good reason.

The Lees embody the American Dream. Stan and Joyce left the economic and political turmoil of South Korea in 1980, bringing with them a four-year-old Ken and his three sisters. They settled in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Ken's father had been an engineer in Korea, but he now worked six days a week, 13 hours a day fixing spray-paint machines. His mother went to school at night to become an acupuncturist. Together, their honest work in their new country provided for the Lee family. As important, Ken watched his parents in those years and learned about grit, perseverance, sacrifice, and hard work.

From those working-class roots in an immigrant community, Ken did well enough in school to earn a spot at Cornell, where he was a top student in his major, and then at Harvard Law, where we first met. Ken was a third-year student when I was a first-year, so he didn't need to give me the time of day. But he did. Ken gave me tips on classes, summer jobs, and clerkships. He was kind and thoughtful, generous with his time and wisdom, even when there was nothing in it for him. Ken even chose me a lot during basketball pick-up games-though I have to confess Ken is a much better lawyer than he is a basketball player.

But you don't need me to tell you that Ken Lee is an outstanding lawyer. An appellate clerkship, service as a counsel to President George W. Bush, work on this committee during the confirmation of the Chief Justice, teaching law students at Pepperdine, and private practice at two of the country's top firms. It's all there on paper in front of you.

I'm here to speak for Ken's character. This is a man who didn't just give a hand to a first-year law student. He mentored minority students and he coached youth baseball in Harlem. He leads an active pro bono practice, working hundreds of hours to protect the helpless and the powerless. Inmates abused by prison authorities. Coptic Christians fleeing persecution. Homeowners facing foreclosure. The Ken Lee I knew twenty years ago is the same Ken Lee who stands before you today, a man of humility, generosity, thoughtfulness, and integrity.

Now I understand that some of you are upset about blue slips, and I know that some of Ken's views may not be your cup of tea. That's fine. Let me suggest that if you disagree with him, then just vote against him. Ken's a good man. He won't hold a grudge-which is more than we can say about most of us senators. But it's wrong to manufacture spurious process fouls and to question his character. Have the courage of your convictions and just say you disagree with him. We'd all be better off if more of us expressed those views openly, but acknowledged that a political or judicial disagreement doesn't necessarily imply a bad character.

Quite the opposite with Ken Lee. I think you'll find today that he's not only a brilliant lawyer, but more important, he's a man of high character. I trust a majority of this committee and the Senate will support his nomination. I'm proud to call Ken Lee a friend, and pretty soon I'll be proud to call him "Judge."