- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Sen. Susan Collins used a law school commencement address Saturday to decry the politicization of the U.S. Supreme Court while peace negotiator and former Senate leader George Mitchell challenged University of Southern Maine graduates to speak out against discrimination and injustice.

Collins, R-Maine, warned that polarization of the Supreme Court and politicization of the nomination process threatens to break faith with the founding fathers’ vision of an independent judiciary.

“If we are going to appoint people based on their demonstrated ideological views and they render decisions in accordance with those views, there is no way to escape public cynicism,” she told the 82 graduates at the University of Maine School of Law.

The “broader issue of hyper-partisanship” must be addressed in order to change the tenor of the selection process, said Collins, one of only two Senate Republicans to support hearings for Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

She said neither party has a monopoly on politicizing the process. She noted that Vice President Joe Biden was captured on video as a senator cautioning against confirming any nominee that President George W. Bush might submit during his final year in office.

While Collins spoke at Merrill Auditorium, Mitchell was addressing the 950 University of Southern Maine graduate and undergraduate students who received diplomas at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

“If you believe that every American child is entitled to a good education, regardless of background or family wealth, you must oppose any actions that would deny them that opportunity,” Mitchell said.

“Remember that in the presence of evil, silence makes you an accomplice,” he added.

The Waterville native served as a U.S. attorney and federal judge before succeeding Edmund Muskie in the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1980 until 1995. Later he led peace talks in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East. He also led an investigation into steroids in major league baseball.

Elsewhere, commencements were held at the University of Maine, along with University of Maine System campuses in Farmington, Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Machias and Augusta. Unity College and St. Joseph’s College in Standish also held commencements.

The University of New England, the College of the Atlantic and Colby, Bates and Bowdoin colleges will hold their commencements in coming weeks.


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