Archive for Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sotomayor disputes racial bias charges

July 15, 2009


— It was almost as if the judge were on trial. Answering for her own past statements, Sonia Sotomayor battled her way through a grueling day of intense and sometimes critical questioning by senators.

But there was little question of the verdict: She’s all but certain to win confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor pushed back vigorously Tuesday against Republican charges that she would bring bias and a liberal agenda to her seat as the first Hispanic woman on the court, insisting repeatedly she would be impartial as GOP senators tried to undercut her with her words from past speeches.

There is little doubt that President Barack Obama’s first high court choice — with solid backing from the Democrats and their lopsided Senate majority — will be confirmed. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said as much — and predicted she would receive at least some Republican backing.

Sotomayor, 55, kept her composure — judge-like, supporters said — during the intense day of questions and answers, listening attentively and scribbling notes as senators peppered her with queries, then leaning into her microphone and gesturing for emphasis as she responded. Serious for the most part, she occasionally smiled and even laughed at lighter moments. She returns for another full day of questioning today.

“My record shows that at no point or time have I ever permitted my personal views or sympathies to influence the outcome of a case,” the appeals court judge declared during a tense exchange with Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the committee that is conducting this week’s confirmation hearings. He repeatedly questioned her ability to be objective as a Supreme Court justice, citing her own comments.

Sotomayor backed away from perhaps the most damaging words that had been brought up since Obama nominated her seven weeks ago — a 2001 comment suggesting that a “wise Latina” judge would usually reach better conclusions than a white man. She called the remark “a rhetorical flourish that fell flat.”

“It was bad because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that’s clearly not what I do as a judge,” Sotomayor said.

She also distanced herself from the man who nominated her, after Republican Sen. Jon Kyl asked whether Sotomayor shared Obama’s view — stated when he was a senator — that in some cases, the key determinant is “what is in the judge’s heart.”

“I wouldn’t approach the issue of judging in the way the president does,” she said. “Judges can’t rely on what’s in their heart. They don’t determine the law. Congress makes the laws. The job of a judge is to apply the law.”

Republicans sounded un-convinced by Sotomayor’s defense.

“I am very troubled that you would repeatedly over a decade or more make statements” like the one in 2001, Sessions said.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sotomayor’s answers Tuesday were starkly at odds with her previous comments. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out — who are we getting here?” he said.

During her first chance to answer questions publicly, Sotomayor stopped short of calling the right to abortion settled law but also said, “All precedents of the Supreme Court I consider settled law subject to” great deference but not absolute. Under repeated questioning, she said she’d have an open mind on gun rights.


blindrabbit 8 years, 9 months ago

How ironic, good ol' Southern boys Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, and Coburn lecturing someone about racial bias. All of these fellows (especially Sessions) are just a few years away from being the bigots they really are. The right wing religious whacko's of the Republican Party have highjacked these guys. Before JFK/LBJ, all of these guys would have been in the "solid" Democrat South.

Sessions is a former KKK spouter, he being from Gov. George Corley Wallace's ilk. It was just 40 years ago that Wallace said "Segregation now, Segregation forever".

Wonder why the Repubs are in trouble!

Flap Doodle 8 years, 9 months ago

In another view: "Speaking only for myself (I guess that's obvious), I was completely disgusted by Judge Sotomayor's testimony today. If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court. If she was perjuring herself, she is morally unqualified. How could someone who has been on the bench for seventeen years possibly believe that judging in hard cases involves no more than applying the law to the facts? First year law students understand within a month that many areas of the law are open textured and indeterminate—that the legal material frequently (actually, I would say always) must be supplemented by contestable presuppositions, empirical assumptions, and moral judgments. To claim otherwise—to claim that fidelity to uncontested legal principles dictates results—is to claim that whenever Justices disagree among themselves, someone is either a fool or acting in bad faith. What does it say about our legal system that in order to get confirmed Judge Sotomayor must tell the lies that she told today? That judges and justices must live these lies throughout their professional carers? Perhaps Justice Sotomayor should be excused because our official ideology about judging is so degraded that she would sacrifice a position on the Supreme Court if she told the truth. Legal academics who defend what she did today have no such excuse. They should be ashamed of themselves."

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