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Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Sessions.

And welcome to the many members of Judge Sotomayor's family, who I know are exceptionally proud to be here today in support of her historic nomination.

Our presence here today is about a nominee who is supremely well-qualified, with experience on the district court and appellate court benches that is unmatched in recent history. It is about a nominee who, in 17 years of judging, has authored opinion after opinion that is smart, thoughtful, and judicially modest.

In short, Judge Sotomayor has stellar credentials. There's no question about that. Judge Sotomayor has twice before been nominated to the bench and gone through confirmation hearings with bipartisan support. The first time, she was nominated by a Republican President.

But most important, Judge Sotomayor's record bespeaks judicial modesty--something that our friends on the right have been clamoring for--in a way that no recent nominee's has. It is the judicial record, more than speeches and statements, more than personal background, that most accurately measures how "modest" a judicial nominee will be.

There are several ways of measuring modesty in the judicial record. I think that Judge Sotomayor more than measures up to each of them.

First, as we will hear in the next few days, Judge Sotomayor puts rule of law above everything else. Given her extensive and even-handed record, I am not sure how any member of this panel can sit here today and seriously suggest that she comes to the bench with a personal agenda. Unlike Justice Alito, she does not come to the bench with a record number of dissents.

Instead, her record shows that she is in the mainstream:

- She has agreed with your Republican colleagues 95 percent of the time;

- She has ruled for the government in 83 percent of immigration cases;

- She has ruled for the government in 92 percent of criminal cases;

- She has denied race claims in 83 percent of cases;

- She has split evenly in a variety of employment cases.

Second - and this is an important point because of her unique experience in the district court - Judge Sotomayor delves thoroughly into the facts of each case. She trusts that an understanding of the facts will lead, ultimately, to justice.

I would ask my colleagues to do this: examine a sampling of her cases in a variety of areas. In case after case after case, Judge Sotomayor rolls up her sleeves, learns the facts, applies the law to the facts, and comes to a decision irrespective of her inclinations or her personal experience.

- In a case involving a New York police officer who made white supremicist remarks, she upheld his right to make them; - In a case brought by plaintiffs who claimed they had been bumped from a plane because of race, she dismissed their case because the law required it; - And she upheld the First Amendment right of a prisoner to wear religious beads under his uniform. And, in hot-button cases such as ones involving professional sports, she carefully adheres to the facts before her. She upheld the NFL's ability to maintain certain player restrictions, and she also ruled in favor of baseball players to end the Major League Baseball strike.

I'd rather have a Supreme Court justice whose clear and obvious agenda is to examine each case than one whose covert goal is to change the way that courts decide cases.

Third, Judge Sotomayor has hewed carefully to the text of statutes, even when doing so results in rulings that go against so-called "sympathetic" litigants.

In dissenting from an award of damages to injured plaintiffs in a maritime accident, she wrote "we start with the assumption that it is for Congress, not the federal courts, to articulate the appropriate standards to be applied as a matter of federal law."

Just short of four years ago, then-Judge Roberts sat where Judge Sotomayor is sitting. He told us that his jurisprudence would be characterized by "modesty and humility." He illustrated this with a now well-known quote: "Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules. They apply them."

Chief Justice Roberts was, and is, a supremely intelligent man with impeccable credentials. But many can debate whether during his four years on the Supreme Court he actually has called pitches as they come -- or has tried to change the rules.

But any objective review of Judge Sotomayor's record on the Second Circuit leaves no doubt that she has simply called balls and strikes for 17 years, far more closely than Chief Justice Roberts has during his four years on the Supreme Court.

More important, if Judge Sotomayor continues to approach cases on the Supreme Court as she has for the last 17 years, she will actually be modest. This is because she does not adhere to a philosophy that dictates results over the facts that are presented.

So, if the number one standard that conservatives use and apply is judicial "modesty and humility" - no activism on the Supreme Court - they should vote for Judge Sotomayor unanimously.

I look forward to the next few days of hearings, and to Judge Sotomayor's confirmation.

Statement of Senator Feinstein at Senate Judiciary Committee Confirmation Hearing on Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Judge Sotomayor, congratulations on your nomination and welcome to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I want to start out with a couple of personal words. Your nomination I view with a great sense of personal pride. You are indeed a very special woman. You have overcome adversity and disadvantages. You have grown in strength and determination and you have achieved respect and admiration for what has been a brilliant legal and judicial career.

If confirmed, you will join the Supreme Court with more federal judicial experience than any Justice in the past 100 years. And you bring with you 29 years of varied legal experience to the court. By this standard you are well-qualified.

You have 11 years as a federal appellate court judge. You have participated in 3,000 appeals, authored roughly 400 published opinions. In your six years on the federal court you were the trial judge in approximately 450 cases. For 4 years, you prosecuted crimes as an assistant district attorney in New York City. You spent eight years litigating business cases at a New York law firm.

What is unique about this broad experience is that you have seen the law truly from all sides.

On the district court you saw firsthand the actual impact of the law on people before you in both civil and criminal cases.

You considered, wrote and joined thousands of opinions clarifying the law and reviewing district court decisions in your time on the appellate court. Your eleven years there were a rigorous training ground for the Supreme Court.

It is very unique for a judge to have both levels of federal court experience and you will be the only one on the current supreme court with this background.

You were a prosecutor who tried murder, robbery and child pornography cases. So you know firsthand the impact of crime on a major metropolis and you have administered justice in the close and personal forum of a trial court.

You also possess a wealth of knowledge in the complicated arena of business law with its contract disputes, patent and copyright issues, and antitrust questions.

And as an associate and partner at a private law firm, you've tried complex civil cases in the areas of real estate, banking and contracts law, as well as intellectual property, which I'm told was a specialty of yours.

So you bring a deep and broad experience in the law to the Supreme Court.

In my 16 years on this committee, I have held certain qualities that a Supreme Court nominee must possess:

• First, broad and relative experience - you satisfy that.

• Second, strong and deep knowledge of the law and the Constitution - you satisfy that.

• Third, a firm commitment to follow the law - and you have in all of the statistics indicated that.

• Next, a judicial temperament and integrity - and you have both of those.

• Finally, mainstream legal reasoning. And there is everything in your record to indicate that.

Bottom line I believe your record indicates that you possess all of these qualities.

Over the past years of my service on this committee, I have found it increasingly difficult to know from answers to questions from this dais how a nominee will actually act as a Supreme Court justice, because answers here are often indirect and are increasingly couched in euphemistic phrases.

For example, nominees have often responded to our specific questions with phrases like: "I have an open mind," or yes, that is precedent "entitled to respect," or "I have no quarrel with that."

Of course, these phrases obfuscate and prevent a clear understanding of where a nominee really stands.

For example, several past nominees have been asked about the Casey decision, where the Court held that the government cannot restrict access to abortions that are medically necessary to preserve a woman's health.

Some nominees responded by assuring that Roe and Casey were precedents of the Court entitled to great respect. And in one of the hearings, through questioning by Senator Specter, this line of cases was acknowledged to have created a "super-precedent."

But once on the Court, the same nominees voted to overturn the key holding in Casey -- that laws restricting a woman's medical care must contain an exception to protect her health.

Their decision did not comport with the answers they gave here, and it disregarded stare decisis and the precedents established in Roe, in Ashcroft, in Casey, in Thornburgh, in Carhart I, and in Ayotte.

"Super precedent" went out the window and women lost a fundamental constitutional protection that had existed for 36 years.

Also, it showed me that Supreme Court justices are much more than umpires calling balls and strikes and that the word activist often is used only to describe opinions of one side.

As a matter of fact, in just two years, these same nominees have either disregarded or overturned precedent in at least eight other cases:

• A case involving assignments to attain racial diversity in school assignments, (Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1)

• A case overruling 70 years of precedent on the Second Amendment and federal gun-control law, (District of Columbia v. Heller)

• A case which increased the burden of proof on older workers to prove age discrimination, (Jack Gross v. FBL Financial Services)

• A case overturning a 1911 decision to allow manufacturers to set minimum prices for their products, (Leegin Creative Leather Products v. PSKS)

• A case overruling two cases from the 1960s on time limits for filing criminal appeals, (Bowles v. Russell)

• A case reversing precedent on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, (Montejo v. Louisiana)

• A case overturning a prior ruling on regulation of issue ads relating to political campaigns, (FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life)

• And a case disregarding prior law and creating a new standard that limits when cities can replace civil service exams that they believe may have discriminated against a group of workers, (Ricci v. DeStefano).

So I do not believe that Supreme Court justices are merely umpires calling balls and strikes. Rather I believe that they make the decisions of individuals who bring to the court their own experiences and philosophies.

Judge Sotomayor, I believe you are a warm and intelligent woman. I believe that you are well studied and experienced in the law with some 17 years of federal court experience involving 3,000 appeals and 450 trial cases.

So I believe you too will bring your experiences and philosophies to this highest court and I believe that will do only one thing - and that is to strengthen this high institution of our great country.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold On the Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee

"The Supreme Court plays a unique and central role in the life of our nation. Those who sit as Justices have extraordinary power over some of the most important, and most intimate, aspects of the lives of American citizens. It is therefore not surprising at all that the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice is such a widely anticipated and widely covered event. The nine men and women who sit on the court have enormous responsibilities, and those of us tasked with voting on the confirmation of a nominee have a significant responsibility as well. I consider this one of the most consequential things I must do as a United States Senator, and I am honored and humbled to have been given this role by the people of Wisconsin.

"The ultimate responsibility of the Supreme Court is to safeguard the rule of law, which defines us as a nation, and protects us all. In the past eight years, the Supreme Court has played a crucial role in checking some of the previous Administration's most egregious departures from the rule of law. Time after time in cases arising out of actions taken by the administration after September 11, the Court has said 'No. You have gone too far.'

"It said 'No' to the Bush Administration's view that it could set up a law-free zone at Guantanamo Bay. It said 'No' to the administration's view that it could hold a citizen in the United States incommunicado indefinitely, with no access to a lawyer. It said 'No' to the administration's decision to create military commissions without congressional authorization. And it said 'No' to the administration and to Congress when they tried to strip the constitutional right to habeas corpus from prisoners held at Guantanamo.

"These were courageous decisions, and in my opinion, they were correct decisions. They made plain, as Justice O'Connor wrote in the Hamdi decision in 2004, 'A state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens.'

"These were also close decisions, some decided by a 5-4 vote. That fact underscores the unparalleled power that each Supreme Court justice has. In my opinion, one of the most important qualities that a Supreme Court justice must have is courage: courage to stand up to the president, and to Congress, in order to protect the constitutional rights of the American people and preserve the rule of law.

"I have touched on the crucial recent decisions of the Court in the area of executive power, but we know, of course, that there are countless past Supreme Court decisions that have had a major impact on many aspects of our national life. The Court rejected racial discrimination in education; it guaranteed the principle of 'one person, one vote'; it made sure that even the poorest person accused of a crime in this country can be represented by counsel; it made sure that newspapers can't be sued for libel by public figures for making a mistake; it protected the privacy of telephone conversations from unjustified government eavesdropping; it protected an individual's right to possess a firearm for private use, and it even decided a presidential election. It made these decisions by interpreting and applying open-ended language in our Constitution like 'equal protection of the laws,' 'due process of law,' 'freedom of the press,' 'unreasonable searches and seizures,' and 'the right to bear arms.' These momentous decisions were not simply the result of an umpire calling balls and strikes. Easy cases where the law is clear almost never make it to the Supreme Court. The great constitutional issues that the Supreme Court is called upon to decide require much more than mechanical application of universally accepted legal principles.

"That is why Justices need great legal expertise, but they also need wisdom, they need judgment, they need to understand the impact of their decisions on the parties before them and the country around them, from New York City to small towns like Spooner, Wisconsin, and they need a deep appreciation of and dedication to equality, to liberty, to democracy.

"That is why I suggest to everyone watching today that they be a little wary of a phrase they may hear at these hearings - 'judicial activism.' That term really has lost all usefulness, particularly since so many rulings of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court can fairly be described as 'activist' in their disregard for precedent and their willingness to ignore or override the intent of Congress. At this point, perhaps we should all accept that the best definition of a 'judicial activist' is a judge who decides a case in a way you don't like. Each of the decisions I mentioned earlier was undoubtedly criticized by someone at the time it was issued, and maybe even today, as being 'judicial activism.' Yet some of them are among the most revered Supreme Court decisions in modern times.

"Mr. Chairman, every senator is entitled to ask whatever questions he or she wants at these hearings and to look to whatever factors he or she finds significant in evaluating this nominee. I hope Judge Sotomayor will answer all questions as fully as possible. I will have questions of my own on a range of issues. Certainly, with the two most recent Supreme Court nominations, senators asked tough questions and sought as much information from the nominees as we possibly could get. I expect nothing less from my colleagues in these hearings. I'm glad, however, that Judge Sotomayor will finally have an opportunity to answer some of the unsubstantiated charges that have been made against her.

"One attack that I find particularly shocking is the suggestion that she will be biased against some litigants because of her racial and ethnic heritage. This charge is not based on anything in her judicial record because there is absolutely nothing in the hundreds of opinions she has written to support it. That long record - which is obviously the most relevant evidence we have to evaluate her - demonstrates a cautious and careful approach to judging. Instead, a few lines from a 2001 speech, taken out of context, have prompted some to charge that she is a racist. I believe that no one who reads the whole Berkeley speech could honestly come to that conclusion. The speech is actually a remarkably thoughtful attempt to grapple with a difficult issue not often discussed by judges - how do a judge's personal background and experiences affect her judging. And Judge Sotomayor concludes her speech by saying the following:

'I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me require.'

"Mr. Chairman, those are the words of a thoughtful, humble, and self-aware judge striving to do her very best to administer impartial justice for all Americans, from New York City to Spooner, Wisconsin. It seems to me that is a quality we want in our judges.

"Judge Sotomayor is living proof that this country is moving in the right direction on the issue of race, that doors of opportunity are finally starting to open to all of our citizens. Just as the election of President Obama gave new hope and encouragement to African American children all over this country, Judge Sotomayor's nomination will inspire countless Hispanic American children to study harder and dream higher, and that is something we should all celebrate.

"Let me again welcome and congratulate the nominee. I look forward to learning in these hearings whether she has the knowledge, the wisdom, the judgment, the integrity, and yes, the courage, to serve with distinction on our nation's highest court. Thank you Mr. Chairman."

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley Senate Committee on the Judiciary Nomination Hearing of Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court Monday, July 13, 2009

Judge Sotomayor, congratulations on your nomination to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. Welcome to the Judiciary Committee. I extend a warm welcome to your family and friends. They must all be very proud of your nomination, and rightfully so.

Judge Sotomayor, you have a distinguished legal and judicial record. No doubt it's one we'd expect of any individual nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice. You made your start from very humble beginnings. You overcame substantial obstacles and went on to excel at some of the nation's top schools. You became an Assistant District Attorney and successful private practice attorney in New York City. You've been on the federal bench as a district court and appellate court judge since 1992. These are all impressive legal accomplishments which certainly qualify you as Supreme Court material.

However, an impressive legal record and a superior intellect are not the only criteria we consider. To be truly qualified, the nominee must understand the proper role of a judge in society. That is, we want to be absolutely certain that the nominee will faithfully interpret the law and Constitution without personal bias or prejudice. This is the most critical qualification of a Supreme Court Justice - the capacity to set aside one's own feelings so he or she can blindly and dispassionately administer equal justice for all.

So the Senate has a constitutional responsibility of "advise and consent" to confirm intelligent, experienced individuals anchored in the Constitution, not individuals who will pursue personal and political agendas from the bench. Judge Sotomayor, you are nominated to the highest court of the land which has the final say on the law. As such, it's even more important for the Senate to ascertain whether you can resist the temptation to mold the Constitution to your own personal beliefs and preferences.

It's even more important for the Senate to ascertain whether you can dispense justice without bias or prejudice. Supreme Court Justices sit on the highest court of the land, so they aren't as constrained to follow precedent to the same extent as district or circuit judges.

There is a proper role of a judge in our system of limited government and checks and balances. Our democratic system of government demands that judges not take on the role of policy makers. That's a role properly reserved to legislators. The Supreme Court is meant to be a legal institution, not a political one. But some individuals and groups don't see it that way. They see the Supreme Court as ground zero for their political and social battles. They want Justices to implement their political and social agenda through the judicial process. That's not what our great American tradition envisioned - those battles are appropriately fought in the legislative branch. So it's incredibly important that we confirm the right kind of person to be a Supreme Court Justice.

Supreme Court nominees should respect the constitutional separation of powers. They should understand that the touchstone of being a good judge is the exercise of judicial restraint. Good judges understand that their job is not to impose their own personal opinions of "right" and "wrong." They know their job is to say what the law "is," rather than what they personally think it "ought to be." Good judges understand that they must meticulously apply the law and the Constitution, even if the results they reach are unpopular. Good judges know that the Constitution and the laws constrain judges every bit as much as they constrain legislators, executives and citizens. Good judges not only understand these fundamental principles, they live and breathe them.

President Obama said that he would nominate judges based on their ability to "empathize" in general and with certain groups in particular. This "empathy" standard is troubling to me. In fact, I'm concerned that judging based on 'empathy" is really just legislating from the bench.

The Constitution requires that judges be free from personal politics, feelings and preferences. President Obama's "empathy" standard appears to encourage judges to make use of their personal politics, feelings and preferences. This is contrary to what most of us understand to be the role of the judiciary.

Judge Sotomayor, President Obama clearly believes you measure up to his "empathy" standard. That worries me. I've reviewed your record and have concerns about your judicial philosophy. For example, in one speech, you doubted that a judge could ever be truly impartial. In another speech, you argued it'd be a "disservice both to the law and society" for judges to disregard personal views shaped by one's "differences as women or men of color." In yet another speech, you proclaimed that the court of appeals is where "policy is made." Your "wise Latina" comment starkly contradicts a statement by Justice O'Connor that "a wise old woman and a wise old man would eventually reach the same conclusion in a case." These statements go directly to your views of how a judge should use his or her background and experiences when deciding cases. Unfortunately, I fear they don't comport with what I and many others believe is the proper role of a judge or an appropriate judicial method.

The American legal system requires that judges check their biases, personal preferences and politics at the door of the courthouse. Lady Justice stands before the Supreme Court with a blindfold holding the scales of justice. Just like Lady Justice, judges and Justices must wear blindfolds when they interpret the Constitution and administer justice.

Judge Sotomayor, I'll be asking you about your ability to wear that judicial blindfold. I'll be asking you about your ability to decide cases in an impartial manner and in accordance with the law and Constitution. I'll be asking you about your judicial philosophy, whether you allow biases and personal preferences to dictate your judicial method.

Ideally, the Supreme Court shouldn't be made up of men and women who are on the side of one special group or issue. Rather, the Supreme Court should be made up of men and women who are on the side of the law and the Constitution. I'm looking to support a restrained jurist committed to the rule of law and the Constitution. I'm not looking to support a creative jurist who will allow his or her background and personal preferences to decide cases.

Judge Sotomayor, the Senate needs to do its job and conduct a comprehensive and careful review of your record and qualifications. You are nominated to a lifetime position on the highest court. The Senate has a tremendous responsibility to confirm an individual who has superior intellectual abilities, solid legal expertise, and an even judicial demeanor and temperament. Above all, we have a tremendous responsibility to confirm an individual who truly understands the proper role of a Justice.

I'll be asking questions about your judicial qualifications. However, I'm also committed to giving you a fair and respectful hearing, as is appropriate of all Supreme Court nominees.

Again, Judge Sotomayor, I congratulate you on your nomination.

Kyl Opening Statement at Sotomayor Hearing

"Many of Judge Sotomayor's public statements suggest that she may, indeed, allow, and even embrace, decision-making based on her biases and prejudices"

"I would hope every American is proud that a Hispanic woman has been nominated to sit on the Supreme Court. In fulfilling our advise and consent role, of course, we must evaluate Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the merits, not on the basis of her ethnicity.

"With a background that creates a prima facie case for confirmation, the primary question I believe Judge Sotomayor must address in this hearing is her understanding of the role of an appellate judge. From what she has said, she appears to believe that her role is not constrained to objectively decide who wins based on the weight of the law, but who, in her opinion, should win. The factors that will influence her decisions apparently include her 'gender and Latina heritage' and foreign legal concepts that get her 'creative juices going.'

"What is the traditional basis for judging in America? For 220 years, presidents and the Senate have focused on appointing and confirming judges and justices who are committed to putting aside their biases and prejudices and applying law to fairly and impartially resolve disputes between parties. "This principle is universally recognized and shared by judges across the ideological spectrum. For instance, Judge Richard Paez of the Ninth Circuit - with whom I disagree on a number of issues -explained this in the same venue where, less than 24 hours earlier, Judge Sotomayor made her now-famous remarks about a 'wise Latina woman' making better decisions than other judges. Judge Paez described the instructions that he gave to jurors who were about to hear a case. 'As jurors,' he said, 'recognize that you might have some bias, or prejudice. Recognize that it exists, and determine whether you can control it so that you can judge the case fairly. Because if you cannot--if you cannot set aside those prejudices, biases and passions--then you should not sit on the case.'

"And then Judge Paez said: 'The same principle applies to judges. We take an oath of office. At the federal level, it is a very interesting oath. It says, in part, that you promise or swear to do justice to both the poor and the rich. The first time I heard this oath, I was startled by its significance. I have my oath hanging on the wall in the office to remind me of my obligations. And so, although I am a Latino judge and there is no question about that--I am viewed as a Latino judge--as I judge cases, I try to judge them fairly. I try to remain faithful to my oath.'

"What Judge Paez said has been the standard for 220 years--it correctly describes the fundamental and proper role for a judge.

"Unfortunately, a very important person has decided it is time for change--time for a new kind of judge; one who will apply a different standard of judging, including employment of his or her empathy for one of the parties to the dispute. That person is President Obama; and the question before us is whether his first nominee to the Supreme Court follows his new model of judging or the traditional model articulated by Judge Paez. "President Obama, in opposing the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts, said that 'while adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95 percent of the cases that come before a court . . . --what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5 percent of cases that are truly difficult. . . . In those 5 percent of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision.' "How does President Obama propose judges deal with these hard cases? Does he want them to use judicial precedent, canons of construction, and other accepted tools of interpretation that judges have used for centuries? No, President Obama says that 'in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart.'

"Of course, every person should have empathy, and in certain situations, such as sentencing, it may not be wrong for judges to be empathetic. The problem arises when empathy and other biases or prejudices that are 'in the judge's heart' become 'the critical ingredient' to deciding cases. As Judge Paez explained, a judge's prejudices, biases, and passions should not be embraced--they must be 'set aside' so that a judge can render an impartial decision as required by the judicial oath and as parties before the court expect.

"I respectfully submit that President Obama is simply outside the mainstream in his statements about how judges should decide cases. I practiced law for almost 20 years before every level of state and federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and never once did I hear a lawyer argue that he had no legal basis to sustain his client's position, so that he had to ask the judge to go with his 'gut' or 'heart.' If judges routinely started ruling on the basis of their personal feelings, however well-intentioned, the entire legitimacy of the judicial system would be jeopardized.

"The question for this committee is whether Judge Sotomayor agrees with President Obama's theory of judging or whether she will faithfully interpret the laws and Constitution and take seriously the oath of her prospective office. "Many of Judge Sotomayor's public statements suggest that she may, indeed, allow, and even embrace, decision-making based on her biases and prejudices.

"The 'wise Latina woman' quote, which I referred to earlier, suggests that Judge Sotomayor endorses the view that a judge should allow her gender-, ethnic-, and experience-based biases to guide her when rendering judicial opinions. This is in stark contrast to Judge Paez's view that these factors should be 'set aside.'

"In the same lecture, Judge Sotomayor posits that 'there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives--no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging' and claims that '[t]he aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others.' No neutrality, no impartiality in judging? Yet, isn't that what the judicial oath explicitly requires?

"And according to Judge Sotomayor, 'Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. . . . I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.'

"Judge Sotomayor clearly rejected the notion that judges should strive for an impartial brand of justice. She has already 'accepted' that her gender and Latina heritage will affect the outcome of her cases. This is a serious issue, and it's not the only indication that Judge Sotomayor has an expansive view of what a judge may appropriately consider. In a speech to the Puerto Rican ACLU, Judge Sotomayor endorsed the idea that American judges should use 'good ideas' found in foreign law so that America does not 'lose influence in the world.'

"As I've explained on the floor of the Senate, the laws and practices of foreign nations are simply irrelevant to interpreting the will of the American people as expressed through our Constitution.

Additionally, the vast expanse of foreign judicial opinions and practices from which one might draw simply gives activist judges cover for promoting their personal preferences instead of the law. You can, therefore, understand my concern when I hear Judge Sotomayor say that unless judges take it upon themselves to borrow ideas from foreign jurisdictions, America is 'going to lose influence in the world.' That's not a judge's concern. "Some people will suggest that we shouldn't read too much into Judge Sotomayor's speeches and articles--that the focus should instead be on her judicial decisions. I agree that her judicial record is an important component of our evaluation, and I look forward to hearing why, for instance, the Supreme Court has reversed or vacated 80 percent of her opinions that have reached that body, by a total vote count of 52 to 19.

"But we cannot simply brush aside her extrajudicial statements. Until now, Judge Sotomayor has been operating under the restraining influence of a higher authority--the Supreme Court. If confirmed, there will be no such restraint that would prevent her from--to paraphrase President Obama--deciding cases based on her heart-felt views. Before we can faithfully discharge our duty to advise and consent, we must be confident that Judge Sotomayor is absolutely committed to setting aside her biases and impartially deciding cases based upon the rule of law."

President Obama will host key labor leaders at the White House this afternoon to discuss a number of pressing issues, including the Employee Free Choice Act and health care.

The administration has put EFCA on the back burner, focusing instead on issues like economic recovery, health care, and climate change--much to the dismay of the very people the President will meet with today. But that doesn't mean there's no common ground. Labor has by and large been on board with Obama's health care push, and have by and large succeeded at taking a key financing scheme--a tax on employer-provided health care benefits--off the table, at a time when Democrats are trying desperately to cover the trillion-dollar up front cost of a reform bill.

On hand today will be the labor presidents of the National Labor Coordinating Committee, which was formed earlier this year by AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and the National Education Association. More on the meeting as details emerge.

Opening Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Committee On The Judiciary,

Confirmation Hearing On The Nomination Of Judge Sonia Sotomayor To Be An Associate Justice Of The U.S. Supreme Court

July 13, 2009

Today, we consider the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Our Constitution assigns just 101 of us the responsibility to act on behalf of all 320 million Americans in considering this important appointment. The President has done his part and made an historic nomination. Now it is up to the Senate to do its part on behalf of the American people.

President Obama often quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s insight that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Each generation of Americans has sought that arc toward justice. We have improved upon the foundation of our Constitution through the Bill of Rights, the Civil War amendments, the 19th Amendment's expansion of the right to vote to women, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the 26th Amendment's extension of the right to vote to young people. These actions have marked progress toward our more perfect union. This nomination can be another step along that path.

Judge Sotomayor's journey to this hearing room is a truly American story. She was raised by her mother, Celina, a nurse, in the South Bronx. Like her mother, Sonia Sotomayor worked hard. She graduated as the valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She was a member of just the third class at Princeton University in which women were included. She continued to work hard, including reading classics that had been unavailable to her when she was younger and arranging tutoring to improve her writing. She graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and was awarded the M. Taylor Senior Pyne Prize for scholastic excellence and service to the university, an honor awarded for outstanding merit.

After excelling at Princeton she entered Yale Law School, where she was an active member of the law school community. Upon graduation, she had many options but chose to serve her community in the New York District Attorney's Office, where she prosecuted murders, robberies, assaults and child pornography.

The first President Bush named her to the Federal bench in 1992, and she served as a trial judge for six years. President Clinton named her to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit where she has served for more than 10 years. She was confirmed each time by a bipartisan majority of the Senate.

Judge Sotomayor's qualifications are outstanding. She has more Federal court judicial experience than any nominee to the United States Supreme Court in 100 years. She is the first nominee in well over a century to be nominated to three different Federal judgeships by three different Presidents. She is the first nominee in 50 years to be nominated to the Supreme Court after serving as both a Federal trial judge and a Federal appellate judge. She will be the only current Supreme Court Justice to have served as a trial judge. She was a prosecutor and a lawyer in private practice. She will bring a wealth and diversity of experience to the Court. I hope all Americans are encouraged by Judge Sotomayor's achievements and by her nomination to the Nation's highest court. Hers is a success story in which all Americans can take pride.

Those who break barriers often face the added burden of overcoming prejudice. That has been true on the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall graduated first in his law school class, was the lead counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and served as the Nation's top lawyer, the Solicitor General of the United States. He won a remarkable 29 out of 32 cases before the Supreme Court. Despite his qualifications and achievements, at his confirmation hearing, he was asked questions designed to embarrass him, questions such as "Are you prejudiced against the white people of the South?"

The confirmation of Justice Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish American to be nominated to the high court, was a struggle rife with anti-Semitism and charges that he was a "radical". The commentary at the time included questions about "the Jewish mind" and how "its operations are complicated by altruism." Likewise, the first Catholic nominee had to overcome the argument that "as a Catholic he would be dominated by the pope."

I trust that all Members of this Committee here today will reject the efforts of partisans and outside pressure groups that have sought to create a caricature of Judge Sotomayor while belittling her record, her achievements and her intelligence. Let no one demean this extraordinary woman, her success, or her understanding of the constitutional duties she has faithfully performed for the last 17 years. I hope all Senators will join together as we did when we considered President Reagan's nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor as the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court and voted unanimously to confirm her.

This hearing is an opportunity for Americans to see and hear Judge Sotomayor for themselves and to consider her qualifications. It is the most transparent confirmation hearing ever held. Judge Sotomayor's decisions and confirmation materials have been posted online and made publicly available. The record is significantly more complete than that available when we considered President Bush's nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito just a few years ago. The Judge's testimony will be carried live on several television stations and live via webcast on the Judiciary Committee website.

My review of her judicial record leads me to conclude that she is a careful and restrained judge with a deep respect for judicial precedent and for the powers of the other branches of the government, including the law-making role of Congress. That conclusion is supported by a number of independent studies that have been made of her record, and shines through in a comprehensive review of her tough and fair record on criminal cases. She has a deep understanding of the real lives of Americans, the duty of law enforcement to help keep Americans safe, and the responsibilities of all to respect the freedoms that define America.

Unfortunately, some have sought to twist her words and her record and to engage in partisan political attacks. Ideological pressure groups have attacked her before the President had even made his selection. They then stepped up their attacks by threatening Republican Senators who do not oppose her.

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.

Our ranking Republican Senator on this Committee reflected on the confirmation process recently, saying: "What I found was that charges come flying in from right and left that are unsupported and false. It's very, very difficult for a nominee to push back. So I think we have a high responsibility to base any criticisms that we have on a fair and honest statement of the facts and that nominees should not be subjected to distortions of their record." I agree. As we proceed, let no one distort Judge Sotomayor's record. Let us be fair to her and to the American people by not misrepresenting her views. We are a country bound together by our Constitution. It guarantees the promise that ours will be a country based on the rule of law. In her service as a Federal judge, Sonia Sotomayor has kept faith with that promise. She understands that there is not one law for one race or another. There is not one law for one color or another. There is not one law for rich and a different one for poor. There is only one law. She has said that" ultimately and completely" a judge has to follow the law, no matter what their upbringing has been. That is the kind of fair and impartial judging that the American people expect. That is respect for the rule of law. That is the kind of judge she has been. That is the kind of fair and impartial Justice she will be and that the American people deserve.

Judge Sotomayor has been nominated to replace Justice Souter, whose retirement last month has left the Court with only eight Justices. Justice Souter served the Nation with distinction for nearly two decades on the Supreme Court with a commitment to justice, an admiration for the law, and an understanding of the impact of the Court's decisions on the daily lives of ordinary Americans. I believe that Judge Sotomayor will be in this same mold and will serve as a Justice in the manner of Sandra Day O'Connor, committed to the law and not to ideology.

In the weeks and months leading up to this hearing, I have heard the President and Senators from both sides of the aisle make reference to the engraving over the entrance of the Supreme Court. The words engraved in that Vermont marble say: "Equal Justice Under Law." Judge Sotomayor's nomination keeps faith with those words.

Opening Statement of US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) at Judge Sotomayor's Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing - July 13, 2009

Before I begin, I want to thank Chairman Leahy for his openness and willingness to work together on the procedures for this hearing.

I hope it will be viewed as the best hearing this Committee has ever held.

Judge Sotomayor, I join Chairman Leahy in welcoming you here today.

This hearing marks an important milestone in your distinguished legal career. I know your family is proud, and rightfully so. It is a pleasure to have them with us today.

I expect this hearing and resulting debate to be characterized by a respectful tone, a discussion of serious issues, and a thoughtful dialogue, and I have worked hard to achieve that from day one.

I have been an active litigator in federal courts for the majority of my professional life. I have tried cases in private practice, as a federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice, and as Attorney General of the State of Alabama.

The Constitution and our great heritage of law are things I care deeply about--they are the foundation of our liberty and prosperity.

This nomination hearing is critically important for two reasons.

First, Justices on the Supreme Court have great responsibility, hold enormous power, and have a lifetime appointment.

Just five members can declare the meaning of our Constitution, bending or changing its meaning from what the people intended.

Second, this hearing is important because I believe our legal system is at a dangerous crossroads.

Down one path is the traditional American legal system, so admired around the world, where judges impartially apply the law to the facts without regard to their own personal views.

This is the compassionate system because this is the fair system.

In the American legal system, courts do not make the law or set policy, because allowing unelected officials to make laws would strike at the heart of our democracy.

Here, judges take an oath to administer justice impartially, which reads:

"I . . . do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me . . . under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."[1]

These principles give the traditional system its moral authority, which is why Americans respect and accept the rulings of courts--even when they lose.

Indeed, our legal system is based on a firm belief in an ordered universe and objective truth. The trial is the process by which the impartial and wise judge guides us to the truth.

Down the other path lies a Brave New World where words have no true meaning and judges are free to decide what facts they choose to see. In this world, a judge is free to push his or her own political and social agenda. I reject this view.

We have seen federal judges force their own political and social agenda on the nation, dictating that the words "under God" be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance[2] and barring students from even silent prayer in schools.[3]

Judges have dismissed the people's right to their property, saying the government can take a person's home for the purpose of developing a private shopping center.[4]

Judges have--contrary to the longstanding rules of war--created a right for terrorists, captured on a foreign battlefield, to sue the United States government in our own courts.[5]

Judges have cited foreign laws, world opinion, and a United Nations resolution to determine that a state death penalty law was unconstitutional.[6]

I'm afraid our system will only be further corrupted as a result of President Obama's views that, in tough cases, the critical ingredient for a judge is the "depth and breadth of one's empathy,"[7] as well as "their broader vision of what America should be."[8]

Like the American people, I have watched this for a number of years, and I fear this "empathy standard" is another step down the road to a liberal activist, results-oriented, and relativistic world where: • Laws lose their fixed meaning, • Unelected judges set policy, • Americans are seen as members of separate groups rather than simply Americans, and • Where the constitutional limits on government power are ignored when politicians want to buy out private companies.

So, we have reached a fork in the road. And there are stark differences between the two paths.

I want to be clear:

I will not vote for--no senator should vote for--an individual nominated by any President who is not fully committed to fairness and impartiality towards every person who appears before them.

I will not vote for--no senator should vote for--an individual nominated by any President who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court.

In my view, such a philosophy is disqualifying.

Such an approach to judging means that the umpire calling the game is not neutral, but instead feels empowered to favor one team over the other.

Call it empathy, call it prejudice, or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it is not law. In truth it is more akin to politics. And politics has no place in the courtroom.

Some will respond, "Judge Sotomayor would never say that it's acceptable for a judge to display prejudice in a case."

But, I regret to say, Judge Sotomayor has outlined such a view in many, many statements over the years.

Let's look at just a few examples:

We've all seen the video of the Duke University panel where Judge Sotomayor says "?it is [the] Court of Appeals where policy is made. And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that."[9]

And during a speech 15 years ago, Judge Sotomayor said, "I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt . . . continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies, and prejudices are appropriate."[10]

And in the same speech, she said, "my experiences will affect the facts I choose to see as a judge."[11]

Having tried cases for many years, these statements are shocking and offensive to me.

I think it is noteworthy that, when asked about Judge Sotomayor's now-famous statement that a "wise Latina" would come to a better conclusion than others, President Obama, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg declined to defend the substance of the nominee's remarks.

They each assumed that the nominee misspoke. But the nominee did not misspeak. She is on record making this statement at least five times over the course of a decade.

These are her own words, spoken well before her nomination. They are not taken out of context.

I am providing a copy of the full text of these speeches to the hearing room today.

Others will say that, despite these statements, we should look to the nominee's record, which they characterize as moderate. People said the same of Justice Ginsburg, who is now considered to be one of the most activist judges in history.

Some senators ignored Justice Ginsburg's philosophy and focused on the nominee's judicial opinions. But that is not a good test because those cases were necessarily restrained by precedent and the threat of reversal from higher courts.

On the Supreme Court, those checks on judicial power will be removed, and the judge's philosophy will be allowed to reach full bloom.

But even as a lower court judge, the nominee has made some very troubling rulings.

I am concerned by the nominee's decision in Ricci, the New Haven Firefighters case--recently reversed by the Supreme Court--where she agreed with the City of New Haven's decision to change its promotion rules in the middle of the game.

Incredibly, her opinion consisted of just one substantive paragraph of analysis concerning the major legal question involved in the case.

Judge Sotomayor has said that she accepts that her opinions, sympathies, and prejudices will affect her rulings. Could it be that her time as a leader of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund provides a clue as to her decision against the firefighters?

While the nominee was Chair of the Fund's Litigation Committee,[12] the organization aggressively pursued racial quotas in city hiring and, in numerous cases, fought to overturn the results of promotion exams.[13]

It seems to me that in Ricci, Judge Sotomayor's empathy for one group of firefighters turned out to be prejudice against the others.

That is, of course, the logical flaw in the "empathy standard." Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.

Judge Sotomayor, we will inquire into how your philosophy, which allows subjectivity into the courtroom, affects your rulings on issues like:

• Abortion, where an organization in which you were an active leader argued that the Constitution requires that taxpayer money be used for abortions;

• Gun control, where you recently ruled that it is "settled law" that the Second Amendment does not prevent a city or state from barring gun ownership;

• Private property, where you have already ruled that the government could take property from one pharmacy developer and give it to another; and

• Capital punishment, where you personally signed a statement opposing the reinstatement of the death penalty because of the "inhuman[e] psychological burden" it places on the offender and his or her family.

I hope the American people will follow these hearings closely.

They should learn about the issues, and listen to both sides of the argument. And, at the end of the hearing, ask: 'If I must one day go to court, what kind of judge do I want to hear my case?

'Do I want a judge that allows his or her social, political, or religious views to change the outcome?

'Or, do I want a judge that impartially applies the law to the facts, and fairly rules on the merits, without bias or prejudice?'

It is our job to determine on which side of that fundamental divide the nominee stands.

We hear that House leaders may delay releasing their proposed health care reform bill yet another day. They were first set to unveil the draft at the end of last week, but postponed the event until today after a number of Democrats raised objections. Now it seems there's some chance may not happen either. We'll try to confirm that one way or another this afternoon.

Last month, I noted that House Minority Leader John Boehner had gone to battle against the Waxman-Markey bill with a bright blue board, designed without any logic other than to imply that cap-and-trade legislation is complicated.

That battle ultimately failed--the bill passed by a slim margin--but Republicans haven't given up on the weapon. Via Grist, I see that Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) is taking up Boehner's arms as the fight moves to the Senate.

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