Sotomayor Hearing: Day 1 Review

by Lizzy Genatowski

Sotomayor Hearing Schedule: What Time Are Supreme Court Hearings?
Sotomayor To Answer Judiciary Panel's Questions
Matt Lauer and David Gregory discussing the Sotomayor Hearing
She's Come Redone
Sotomayor Vows ‘Fidelity to the Law’ as Hearings Start

Sotomayor Hearing Schedule: What Time Are Supreme Court Hearings?

The Huffington Post  I  First Posted: 07-13-09 09:21 AM   |   Updated: 07-13-09 10:28 AM

The Senate Judiciary Committee has released a schedule for the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, which start Monday morning.

MONDAY, JULY 13, 2009

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building. Guidelines for the media have been released and are available online.

Each Committee member will be permitted to deliver opening statements up to 10 minutes in length. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will provide the introductions of Judge Sotomayor. Chairman Leahy will then administer the oath to Judge Sotomayor, and she will be invited to make an opening statement. Her statement is expected to begin around 1:30 p.m. The Judiciary Committee will recess for the day following Judge Sotomayor's statement.

TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2009

The hearing will resume on Tuesday, July 14, between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Questions in the first round of questions will be 30 minutes in length, and will begin with Chairman Leahy, followed by Ranking Member Sessions, and will then alternate between Democrats and Republicans. The Committee is expected to take periodic breaks, and will recess for a longer lunch break in the early afternoon. The Committee is NOT expected to complete the first round of questions before it concludes its session for the day, and will likely recess late in the day.


The hearing will resume on Tuesday, July 15, between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. The first round of questions is expected to be completed by late morning or early afternoon, at which time the Committee will move into closed session. It is routine for the Committee to hold a closed session with Supreme Court nominees. Following a lunch break, the Committee will resume open session, and will begin the second round of questions. Questions in the second round are expected to be 20 minutes in length.


The hearing will resume Thursday, July 16, between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. If the Committee does not complete its questioning of Judge Sotomayor on Wednesday, it will do so Thursday morning. The Committee will then hear from panels of outside witnesses announced earlier today.

FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2009

If the Committee is unable to receive testimony from all outside witnesses by the end of the day Thursday, it will reconvene on Friday.

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Sotomayor To Answer Judiciary Panel's Questions

by Nina Totenberg  I  Morning Edition, July 14, 2009

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is back before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. She listened to hours of comments at her confirmation hearing Monday before getting a chance to give her own opening statement. Senators of both parties praised her personal accomplishments.

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Matt Lauer and David Gregory discussing the Sotomayor Hearing

July 13: TODAY'S Matt Lauer talks to David Gregory, moderator or NBC'S "Meet The Press," about the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

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She's Come Redone:Senators at today's hearing were determined to cast Sotomayor as over-the-top. Why didn't she fight back harder?

By Dahlia Lithwick Posted on SLATE Monday, July 13, 2009, at 7:00 PM ET

To hear the senators talking, their overwhelming impression of Sonia Sotomayor on this first day of her confirmation hearings is that she is Just. Too. Much.
Sotomayor herself feeds that impression off the bat by confessing to the committee that she has brought along too much family—or what she describes as "familylike" people. If she were to introduce the whole pack of them by name, she says, "we'd be here all morning." Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., then tries to turn the judge's Too Muchness into an asset by trussing up Sotomayor in superlatives. "She has more federal judicial experience than any nominee to the 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." We hear over and over that to be the first requires being "the best." Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., promises that Sotomayor will go on to be "one of the finest justices in American history."

Her Republican critics, for their part, also paint the Supreme Court nominee as outsized, forever spilling out of her confines. In their mouths, of course, this larger-than-life-ness is monstrous. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., points out that Sotomayor's "background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies" could sway her decisions. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., warns that the judge's statements "suggest that she may allow, and even embrace, decision-making based on her biases and prejudices." Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, quotes a speech in which she argued that "it's 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." If the whole theme of the John Roberts and Samuel Alito hearings was that Democrats worried these men were seriously lacking something (heart, soul, humanity), the whole Republican attack on Sotomayor turns on the opposite kind of accusation. They make her froth, teem, and bubble over with excess gender and race identification, such that prejudice and bias will inevitably follow.

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Sotomayor Vows ‘Fidelity to the Law’ as Hearings Start

By PETER BAKER and NEIL A. LEWIS  I  NYT  I  Published: July 13, 2009

WASHINGTON — Judge Sonia Sotomayor opened her case for confirmation to the Supreme Court on Monday by assuring senators that she believes a judge’s job “is not to make law” but “to apply the law,” as the two parties used her nomination to debate the role of the judiciary.Responding for the first time to weeks of Republican criticism, Judge Sotomayor rejected the notion that personal biases determine her rulings and said her 17 years on the bench showed that she “applied the law to the facts at hand.” Her empathy helps her grasp a case, not twist it to suit an agenda, she said.

“My personal and professional experiences help me to listen and understand,” she told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “with the law always commanding the result in every case.”

Before she spoke, Republicans made clear they would use the hearings to portray her as willing to tilt the scales of justice to address her personal feelings about the cases before her.

They bored in on her comment in a speech in 2001 that a “wise Latina” would make better decisions in some cases than a white male, as well as other speeches in which she emphasized her gender, ethnicity and compassion.

Four of the panel’s seven Republicans invoked the “wise Latina” reference to criticize her, with one, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, saying, “my career would have been over” if he had said something like that.

The ranking Republican on the panel, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said: “Call it empathy, call it prejudice, or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it’s not law. In truth it’s more akin to politics. And politics has no place in the courtroom.”

The start of hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic and third woman to sit on the Supreme Court, was permeated with electoral politics, with Republicans taking pains not to offend Hispanic voters even as they sought to assure conservatives that they were vigorously challenging Judge Sotomayor and Mr. Obama on ideological grounds.

The session also quickly became a proxy for a larger struggle over the court. At times, it seemed the hearing was devoted more to refighting past battles and setting the stage for future ones, a recognition that barring an unforeseen development, Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation seems assured in a Senate with a commanding Democratic majority.

Mr. Graham told Judge Sotomayor bluntly that she need only play it safe this week to win the seat. “Unless you have a complete meltdown,” he said, “you’re going to get confirmed.”

Given that sense of inevitability, Republicans were intent on using the hearing to relitigate the successful Democratic effort in 2002 and 2003 to block the nomination by President George W. Bush of a Hispanic lawyer, Miguel A. Estrada, to a federal appeals court seat, and Mr. Obama’s votes as a senator against Mr. Bush’s nominees.

For their part, Democrats used the forum to complain that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had led the court in a more conservative direction than he indicated in his hearings four years ago.

And both sides framed the debate not only for this nomination but for the next ones. Liberals hoped to build a lopsided victory to give Mr. Obama room to choose someone to their liking if he gets another vacancy, while conservatives hoped to draw a line making the president think twice about picking someone like Judge Sotomayor again.

Mixed in to the proceedings was the historic nature of Judge Sotomayor’s arrival as the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who grew up in a Bronx public housing project.

As he introduced her, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, choked up with emotion over her life story. Mr. Leahy compared her to Louis D. Brandeis, the first Jewish justice, and Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice.

“The progression of my life has been uniquely American,” Judge Sotomayor said in an opening statement, describing how her father died when she was young, leaving her to be raised by a single mother who emphasized education.

She said the values she learned as a child guided her as a judge, but, recognizing criticism of her work with activist groups like the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, she said, “my career as an advocate ended” with her appointment to the Federal District Court by President George Bush in 1992.

Her judicial philosophy, she said, is “simple: fidelity to the law.”

“The task of a judge,” she continued, “is not to make law, it is to apply the law.”

Judge Sotomayor, 55, who was elevated in 1998 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York by President Bill Clinton, sat with her right leg encased in a cast because of a broken ankle. Behind her were her mother, stepfather, brother and other relatives.

The hearing was interrupted several times by shouts from anti-abortion protesters. One of those arrested was Norma McCorvey, better known as the “Jane Roe” in the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case.

Mr. Obama selected Judge Sotomayor to succeed Justice David H. Souter, who retired. The first day of hearings was devoted to opening statements. On Tuesday, the committee will begin three days of questioning Judge Sotomayor and witnesses for and against her.

Wary of offending Hispanic voters, Republicans praised Judge Sotomayor’s life story while framing their criticism of her judicial philosophy — and Mr. Obama’s. “I respectfully submit that President Obama is simply outside the mainstream in his statements about how judges should decide cases,” said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, lamented the Democratic success in blocking Mr. Estrada’s nomination and focused on Mr. Obama’s votes against Republican judicial nominees with similar credentials because of their judicial philosophy.

While Republicans focused on Mr. Estrada, Democrats focused on Chief Justice Roberts, whose name came up 18 times. “I thought this was your hearing, not Judge Roberts’s hearing,” said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said she found it difficult to predict how nominees would rule because so many give misleading answers to the committee, clearly referring to Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito. Mrs. Feinstein said that both had said they respected precedent but voted to overturn or ignore nine precedents once on the court.

The only senator to openly suggest he might break party ranks was Mr. Graham, who said: “President Obama won, and that ought to matter. Does to me.”

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