RACblog: FOCUS ON THE COURT --- Sotomayor Hearings: Day 1

by Jared Feldman

Blog post from our colleagues at the the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.  Click here to see the RACblog.

courtdaylogo.pngThe first day of hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court has come to an end.  All 19 members of the Judiciary Committee gave their opening statements and Judge Sotomayor offered her testimony. 

The Senator's speeches reflected the seriousness with which they take their roles in the judicial nominations process.  Senator Feingold articulated this sentiment when he said,

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.

The Senators' statements varied in tone and approach, but there were many themes that recurred throughout the hearing.  The most prominent theme was the consideration of the unspoken question, "What makes a good Supreme Court Justice?"

Here are a few of the most interesting quotes on the topic:

Senator Grassley (R-Iowa):  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.

Senator Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island):  I'd like to . . . look for a simple pledge from you during these hearings: that you will respect the role of Congress as representatives of the American people; that you will decide cases based on the law and the facts; that you will not prejudge any case, but listen to every party that comes before you; and that you will respect precedent and limit yourself to the issues that the Court must decide; in short, that you will use the broad discretion of a Supreme Court Justice wisely.

Senator Kaufman (D-Delaware): For me, the critical criteria for judging a Supreme Court nominee are the following: A first-rate intellect, significant experience, unquestioned integrity, absolute commitment to the rule of law, unwavering dedication to being fair and open-minded, and the ability to appreciate the impact of court decisions on the lives of ordinary people.

Senator Kyl (R-Arizona): 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.

For me, one of the most poignant moments of the hearing was when Senator Cardin demonstrated the impact of the Supreme Court on the average American by offering the following reflection on being Jewish in Baltimore in the 1950's:

I remember with great sadness how discrimination was not only condoned but, more often than not, actually encouraged against Blacks, Jews, Catholics, and other minorities in the community. There were neighborhoods that my parents warned me to avoid for fear of my safety because I was Jewish. The local movie theater denied admission to African Americans. Community swimming pools had signs that said "No Jews, No Blacks Allowed." Even Baltimore's amusement parks and sports clubs were segregated by race. Then came Brown v. Board of Education and, suddenly, my universe and community were changed forever.

To read the Senators' and Judge Sotomayor's full statements, click here.  And, Don't forget to tune in tomorrow to watch the Senators question Judge Sotomayor on the issues.

Also, check out our newest video!  We sent RAC interns Madeline and Devin to the Senate office buildings to provide you with some on-site coverage:


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