Sotomayor Hearing Live-Blog, Day 1

This week, the Wonk Room will live blog Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. As we have previously reported, Republicans are prepared to make race the focus of their attacks on Sotomayor, with foreign law, the Second Amendment, eminent domain and opposition to reproductive choice rounding out their strategy. We will be updating this thread throughout the day.

3:53: CAPAF’s statement on the first day of the hearing is available here. It begins “Republican attacks in today’s confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor focused largely on their claim that Sotomayor lacks “impartiality” and is likely to decide cases based on her personal beliefs instead of the law. This line of attack is not surprising in light of their comments prior to the hearings, yet Republicans have still been unable to cite a single case where Sotomayor put her feelings before the law.”

3:02: Hearings in recess until 9:30 tomorrow morning.

3:00: Here is the meat of Judge Sotomayor’s statement:

Throughout my seventeen years on the bench, I have witnessed the human consequences of my decisions. Those decisions have been made not to serve the interests of any one litigant, but always to serve the larger interest of impartial justice.

In the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make the law — it is to apply the law. And it is clear, I believe, that my record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms; interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress’s intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court. In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand.

2:54: Sotomayor sworn in; begins statement.

2:51: Gillibrand takes a nice dig at Sessions. Sotomayor’s leadership role in a civil rights organization, just like Justices Marshall and Ginsburg’s service with similar organizations, should not be used as a “disqualifier.”


2:37: Franken: Justice Thomas votes to overturn federal laws more than Justice Stevens and Justice Breyer combined. Indeed, Thomas votes to second-guess Congress 65.63% of the time — more than any other justice. The only Democratic appointees on the Court, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, are the least likely to do so.

2:32: Another “abortion is murder” protestor interrupts the hearing. Finish your beers.

2:30: The Al Franken Decade dawns.

2:25: Specter calls out CJ Roberts for saying in his confirmation hearing that he would led Congress decide how to remedy discrimination, then deciding that he knows better than Congress once he got on the Supreme Court.

2:21: Specter: Court has time for more cases. Worries that there is too much uncertainty in the law because the Court only decides 60–70 cases per year — as opposed to the hundreds of cases it would hear each year in the 1800s. Calls out the Court for not considering the merits of President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping and the rights of 9/11 victims.


2:17: Kaufman calls out the Supreme Court for putting a thumb on the scale in favor of corporations, citing preemption of progressive state laws, punitive damages and other corporate immunity cases as examples.

2:10: Klobuchar attacks the Supreme Court from the right, criticizing a recent decision (by Justice Scalia) which said that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to call lab techs who prepare evidence against them to the witness stand.

2:01: Leahy gavels the hearing back into session. Senator Klobuchar now speaking.

12:38: Committee now in recess until 2pm.

12:38: Durbin: of the 110 justices to serve on the Supreme Court, 106 have been white males.

12:32: Another “abortion is murder” protestor interrupts the hearing and is removed.

12:23: Coburn opens his statement by praising Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld a ban on certain kinds of abortion. Later, he says “we want the system of law to be predictable,” but Carhart overruled a Supreme Court precedent which was only seven years old. Apparently, the law only needs to be predictably conservative.


12:22: Coburn: “I thought this was your hearing and not Chief Justice Roberts’ hearing.” Apparently he hasn’t been paying attention, this is Miguel Estrada’s hearing.

12:12: Whitehouse: “pretense” that Republican judges are modest and Democratic judges are “activist” runs counter to recent history. CJ Roberts’ claim that judges should behave like “umpires” is “belied” by Roberts himself. Quotes Jeffery Toobin’s observation that “In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. . . . Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.”

12:06: Cornyn spends his statement ranting against judges who rule against the elected branches, then cites D.C. v. Heller, the recent Second Amendment decision, as an ideal case. But Heller struck down a law enacted by the elected D.C. City Council. Apparently, judicial modesty = doing whatever conservatives want.

11:39: Sotomayor: The Drinking Game!

11:36: Classic Josh Marshall: “Are the Republicans on the committee under the misimpression that this hearing is about Miguel Estrada?”

11:31: “I don’t know how I’m going to vote, but my inclination is that elections matter.” Graham looks a lot like a “yes” vote.

11:23: Graham’s moment of honesty: “unless you have a complete meltdown, you’re going to get confirmed.”

11:21: Graham is the second GOP senator to bring up Miguel Estrada, a right-wing nominee who was rejected in the Bush-era because he repeatedly stonewalled the Senate’s attempts to evaluate his record. The only thing Estrada has in common with Sotomayor is that they were both nominated for the federal bench and they are both Latino. Apparently, the GOP thinks that this makes them exactly the same.

11:19: Schumer hits back, hard, on claim that Sotomayor puts her own liberal views ahead of the law. Sotomayor ruled against immigrants 83% of the time, for the prosecution 92% of the time, and against discrimination plaintiffs 8 of 9 times. Compares Sotomayor poorly to CJ Roberts, who has not “called balls and strikes,” but instead has “changed the rules.”

11:16: Kyl misleadingly claims that 80% of Sotomayor’s cases that have reached the Supreme Court were reversed. But the Supreme Court has only reversed six of the approximately 380 majority opinions Sotomayor has written as a court of appeals judge.

11:08: Kyl: Sotomayor will be biased because of her “gender and Latina heritage.” Later claims, falsely, that Sotomayor said that she will let her own personal prejudices influence decisions, even though she said the exact opposite in the speech Kyl cites.

11:04: Feingold: Phrase “judicial activist” means nothing because the conservatives who use it support right-wing justices who routinely ignore the law. Says that “judicial activist” = a judge who decides cases “in a way we don’t like.” Later, he calls out Republicans for their inability to find a single example of a case where Sotomayor placed her own personal views ahead of the law.

10:55: Grassley also hits the “judges must be impartial” meme. Still hasn’t found anything in her judicial record which suggests that she is not impartial.

10:48: Feinstein listing precedents which have been overruled or ignored by the Roberts Court. It is a very long list. (Tom says 25 cases).

10:45: A protestor interrupts the hearing and is removed. Tom Goldstein says he was an abortion protestor.

10:35: Hatch also says that “The Senate owes some deference to the president’s qualified nominees,” which Sotomayor unquestionably is. Marc Ambinder notes that “Hatch could be among the friendlier Republicans on the committee for Sotomayor.” FWIW, Republicans have set a low bar on their opposition to Sotomayor, saying that they want at least 20 votes against her.

10:34: Hatch hits Obama for voting against Judge Janice Rogers Brown’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit, but Judge Brown is a radical libertarian who thinks that the New Deal and the Civil Rights era are unconstitutional. It’s surprising that Hatch would hold out one of the nation’s most radical jurists as a model.

10:22: Unsurprisingly, Sessions attacks Sotomayor because she used to sit on the board of a civil rights organization. He has a long history of this kind of racial attack.

10:21: Sessions hits Sotomayor for her role in Ricci, even though she did nothing more than follow a binding precedent in that case. Later, Sessions hits her again for a Second Amendment decision and an eminent domain decision where she also followed a law that he apparently doesn’t like. Why does Jeff Sessions believe that judges don’t have to follow the law?

10:18: Sesssions hits Sotomayor for saying that courts of appeals are “where policy is made.” Only one problem: ultra-conservative Justice Scalia has said the exact same thing. Also hits Sotomayor for saying that her “experience” shapes her decisions. Problem: George W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito said this too.

10:12: Sessions takes the mike. Unsurprisingly, Sessions’ emphasizes need for judges to be “impartial.” Warns of world where judges are “free to push their own agenda.” He must not like Chief Justice Roberts very much, then.

10:06: Leahy: I hope that questions to Justices Thurgood Marshall (first black nominee) and Louis Brandeis (first Jewish nominee) which demeaned them for being minorities are a relic of the past.