Monday, July 13, 2009

And the Circus Begins

This morning marked the beginning of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Nominee, Sonya Sotomayor, and it seems that we're in store for some serious political theatrics. Already, just in the opening statements from a number of Senators from each party, a marked difference in the tone and tenor of their remarks.

While each side has congratulated her on her nomination, it pretty much stops there for the Republicans. Where Democrats have praised the depth and breadth of her judicial experience and record, the Republicans are trying to paint her as an activist who is not qualified to sit on our nation's highest court.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) implied that she would substitute her own beliefs in deciding cases, thus corrupting our legal system with her empathy. He further went on to state: "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. "Sen. Sessions also indicated that looking at judicial opinions is not a good test, because Supreme Court Justices cannot be reversed. I beg to differ with that statement. A perfect case in point is that of Lilly Ledbetter, where Congress just passed legislation that reversed the opinion of the Supreme Court ... and that legislation was recently signed into law by President Obama on January 29, 2009.
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) implied in his remarks that even if she has an impressive legal record and a superior intellect, he fears she will use her "empathy" to legislate from the bench ... that she would be "a creative jurist who will allow his or her background and personal preferences to decide cases."
  • Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) condemned her experience from the appellate court by claiming that "... 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." He also implied that she may not be able to "...faithfully interpret the laws and Constitution and take seriously the oath of her prospective office ... 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."
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) implied that, if confirmed, she would steer the Court in the wrong direction limiting the fundamental rights of generations of Americans stating, "Judge Sotomayor: some of your opinions suggest that you would limit some of our basic constitutional rights – and some of your public statements suggest that you would invent rights that do not exist in our written Constitution."

Judge Sotomayor is a restrained and moderate jurist who was put on the bench initially by Republican President George Herbert Walker Bush. She dilligently reviews all relevant information before her in making a decision. In fact, her decision on the appellate court regarding the New Haven firefighters (which was recently overturned by the Supreme court and which the GOP seems to want to rant the most about about) was one that clearly followed precedents set in earlier court rulings ... the exact kind of rulings that conservatives purportedly claim to embrace. In defense of Judge Sotomayor, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) took exception to some of the political theatrics stating: "Mr. Chairman, every senator is entitled to ask whatever questions he or she wants ... 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 ..."

But, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) said it best today, "Nominated by both Democratic and Republican presidents, for 17 years she has been a distinguished jurist and now has more federal judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in the last hundred years. "

Let's all hope the political theatrics affecting this confirmation are minimal and that Judge Sotomayor's confirmation happens quickly.


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