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Orrin G. Hatch United States Courthouse

Floor Speech

By: Mike Lee
By: Mike Lee
Date: Nov. 17, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEE. Madam President, as in legislative session, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of S. 4902, which was introduced earlier today.

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Mr. LEE. Madam President, this is legislation that would name the Federal courthouse in Salt Lake City, which was completed a few years ago, after my friend and former colleague and also a longtime mentor of mine, Senator Orrin G. Hatch.

Senator Hatch, long before he became a statesman, was a lawyer--and not just any lawyer, he was a lawyer's lawyer. He was really good. He received the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell AV rating as a litigator. His skills as a litigator were so good that they helped convince some of his friends and neighbors that he ought to seek public office. The first public office he sought as an elected official was to the U.S. Senate. He was elected in 1976.

He then served in the U.S. Senate from 1977 all the way up until 2019. During that 42-year time period, Senator Hatch had a profound impact not only on the U.S. Senate and his colleagues here--and he certainly did; he was a friend to everyone who knew him--but he also had a much broader impact, one that will have far-reaching, lasting, durable impacts on the Federal court system.

I took a look at a list of all Federal district judges--the trial court judges who have served on the Federal bench from Utah ever since our statehood. There are only about 20 people on that list. All but five of those came on to the court either during or right after; in other words, with some input--significant input from Senator Hatch.

Senator Hatch has also been a part of every judicial nomination in the confirmation process during that same 42-year period. I can't think of any other Utahan in the history of our State who has had anywhere near the kind of impact on the Federal judiciary as Senator Hatch. It is not just that he served on the committee throughout that time period that confirmed judicial nominees, whether to Federal district courts, to the courts of appeals, or to the Supreme Court--he certainly did have a lot of impact there--but his impact even went further than that, you see, because he sought to be a mentor to people interested in the law and in public policy everywhere. His service had an impact certainly on me as one of countless lawyers and other people interested in law and public policy in this country.

I remember watching proudly and with great admiration as he conducted himself as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Robert Bork confirmation hearings. He had a certain commitment to the rule of law and to fundamental fairness that would be owed to anyone nominated to that or any other judicial position, and he was willing to make sure that the Senate did its job and that it didn't get mired in the politics of the day.

He had a great quote on this topic. He said: ``Politics must not undermine the principles and standards we apply to every judicial nomination.''

I watched over the years, in part, because I had first seen him participate in the Bork hearings. That got me interested in the Senate. In part, because of that example, that got me interested as a teenager to apply to be a Senate page. I later became a Senate page, appointed by Senator Hatch. I got to see him carry out his activities as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And from then on, I always watched with careful attention when he was handling a judicial confirmation hearing.

I watched through the years as he handled the nomination hearings of individuals including: Justice Thomas, Justice Ginsburg, and, later, Justice Alito, my former boss. In each instance, he treated judicial nominees and literally hundreds of others like them with dignity and respect but also with the amount of thorough attention that lifetime appointment to the Federal judiciary demands.

In addition to this, he also liked to try to foster in others a genuine interest in the law. I remember, when I was serving as a law clerk to Federal District Judge Dee Benson in Salt Lake City--one of the brightest and most capable jurists ever to serve on the Federal bench, whether in Utah or anywhere else. He was a good friend, longtime ally and confidant of Senator Hatch's. I remember, while I was clerking for Judge Benson, right after I graduated from law school, Senator Hatch came by and just held a roundtable discussion with all the Federal judges. He not only seemed but was in fact conversant on all kinds of issues of the law--not just the hot-button issues that people think of when they watch the news, but he was delving into arcane details of the law that really made me proud to have him representing me in the U.S. Senate from the State of Utah.

I got to know Senator Hatch even better after I got elected to the Senate, and he and I had the opportunity to work together as colleagues. Throughout all these experiences, I have come to revere him as someone who reveres the law.

For these reasons, I conclude that it is fitting for us to name this Federal courthouse in Utah after him. It is difficult to imagine anyone who has had the same impact on the Federal judiciary who has ever lived in or served from our State as Senator Hatch.

Madam President, I would like to yield some time to my colleague, the Senator from Utah.

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Mr. LEE. 4902 be considered read a third time and passed and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table.

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Mr. LEE. Madam President, I am grateful my colleagues have chosen to allow this to pass into law. It is a great day for Senator Hatch, the State of Utah, and the United States.

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