Friday, April 12, 2024

Sotomayor Faces Hearings

Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court begins her Senate confirmation hearing process this morning which likely will lead to her becoming the first Hispanic justice on the court.

President Barack Obama, who previously taught constitutional law, nominated the 55-year-old Sotomayor to replace now-retired Justice David Souter. The former justice was known as a moderate often siding with liberals on the deeply divided nine-member court. If confirmed, Sotomayor is expected to follow Souter keeping an ideological balance on the court.

Sotomayor will face questions from the Senators on a range of controversial issues including abortion, gun control, the death penalty and her stance on racial preferences and “affirmative action”.

Democrats have hailed Sotomayor’s nomination, saying she is the most qualified and experienced nominee to the Court, and her working-class Puerto Rican background represents the American story. Last week, Sotomayor received the top rating from the influential American Bar Association, and new polls show a slim majority of Americans believe she should be confirmed to the lifetime job.

Sotomayor is the most qualified nominee in the last 100 years. She has more federal judicial experience than any Superem Court Justice, and has had more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years.

She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Betta Kappa from Princeton University, and went to Yale Law School, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy says, “In truth, we do not have to speculate about what kind of a Justice she will be because we have seen the kind of judge she has been. She is a judge in which all Americans can have confidence. She has been a judge for all Americans and will be a Justice for all Americans.”

Sotomayor will also certainly be questioned about a speech she gave in which she said she thought a “wise Latina” could reach better legal conclusions than a white man because of her life background. Republicans have used this statement as a line of attack arguing that it is evidence that her behavior on the bench is ruled by bias, empathy and emotion, rather than strict interpretation of the law.

Last month, the Supreme Court overruled a lower court ruling approved by Sotomayor in which the circuit court supported the City of New Haven, Connecticut after it threw out the results of a promotions exam for firefighters because it did not produced enough qualified black candidates. The lead plaintiff in the case against the city, a white firefighter, is expected to be called as a witness in the Senate committee hearing against Sotomayor.

The fact that the Supreme Court reversed the decision in no way suggests that the Second Circuit panel decision was wrong—the Second Circuit was bound by the precedent that existed at the time and the Supreme Court exercised its unique prerogative to change the direction of the law.

Despite the controversies, it is widely believed that Sotomayor will be confirmed with well more than the 60 vote majority that the Democrats hold in the Senate. There have been no threats of a filibuster.


Washington Post