Sotomayor: ‘We’re not robots.’

One of the main right-wing talking points against Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been that she will let her biases and experiences get in the way of impartial decisions on the Supreme Court. Responding to questions from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) about whether judges should allow their “prejudices” to “impact their decision-making,” Sotomayor addressed this controversy:

SOTOMAYOR: Never their prejudices. I was talking about the very important goal of the justice system is to ensure that the personal biases and prejudices of a judge do not influence the outcome of a case. What I was talking about was the obligation of judges to examine what they’re feeling as they’re adjudicating a case and to ensure that it’s not influencing the outcome. Life experiences have to influence you. We’re not robots to listen to evidence and not have feelings. We have to recognize those feelings and put them aside. … But there are situations in which some experiences are important in the process of judging because the law asks us to use those experiences.

SESSIONS: Well, I understand that. […]

SOTOMAYOR: I think the system is strengthened when judges don’t presume they’re impartial, but when judges test themselves to identify when their emotions are driving a result, or their experiences are driving a result, and the law is not.


Sotomayor later added that “at no point or time, have I ever permitted my personal views or sympathies to influence the outcome of a case. In every case where I have identified a sympathy, I have articulated it and explained to the litigant why the law requires a different result. I do not permit my sympathies, personal views, or prejudices, to influence the outcome of my cases.” Watch it:

TP’s Ian Millhiser is live-blogging today’s hearings. Check out his coverage here.