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Sotomayor Hearings (VIDEO, UPDATES): Day 1

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Judge Sonia Sotomayor appeared today before the Senate Judiciary Committee for her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Latest updates are below.

(Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, is live-blogging the hearing here. The full schedule of the hearings is here.)

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Sotomayor pledges impartial justice if confirmed. Her confirmation all but assured, Sonia Sotomayor pledged Monday to serve the "larger interest of impartial justice" rather than any narrower cause if she becomes the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court.

"My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case," Sotomayor told senators at a nationally televised confirmation hearing.

The remarks about judicial philosophy were her first since President Barack Obama nominated the South Bronx-born and Ivy League-educated veteran of 17 years on the federal bench. They appeared aimed at Republicans who have questioned her commitment to impartiality in light of a 2001 remark that experience as a "wise Latina" might give her an advantage over white males.

In her remarks, Sotomayor said, "The progression of my life has been uniquely American," that of a child of Puerto Rican parents who moved to New York during World War II. "I want to make one special note of thanks to my mom," she said. "I am here today because of her aspirations and sacrifices for my brother Juan and me."

"Mom, I love that we are sharing this together," said Sotomayor, whose father died when she was 9.

Anti-abortion protesters interrupt Franken.

GOP Sen. Graham: Absent "meltdown," you'll be confirmed. In what had to be the most candid opening statement of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) acknowledged that President Obama's court nominee would almost definitely end up on the bench.

"Unless you have a complete meltdown, you are going to get confirmed," Graham said to the amusement of those in attendance. "And I do not think you will. The drama that is being created here is interesting."

The senator went on to say that he was not sure how he would vote, though in recent days he has hinted that he could back the appeals court judge.

What came next from the South Carolina Republican was equally blunt. "My Republican colleagues who will vote against it, I assure you could vote for a Hispanic nominee," he said to her. "They just feel unnerved by your speeches and by some of the things you have said, and some of your cases."

It was a tacit acknowledgment of how concerned Graham and the rest of the GOP are about these confirmation hearings. The party did itself no favors when it painted Obama's nominee as a "reverse racist" right out of the gate. Since then, Republican lawmakers have done their best not to come off as insensitive about the obvious pride the Hispanic community has about the nomination of one of its own.

As a pivot, Graham used the filibustered nomination of Miguel Estrada for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals during the Bush years to diffuse talk that the Republican Party was somehow anti-immigrant.

"No Republican would have chosen you, Judge," Graham bluntly told Sotomayor. "That is just the way it is. We would have picked Miguel Estrada. And we would all have voted for him. I don't think anybody on that side would have voted for Judge Estrada, who was a Honduran immigrant who came to this country as a teenager, graduated from Columbia magna cum laude, Harvard 1986 magna cum laude and law review editor. A stellar background like yours. And that is just the way it was. He never had a chance to have this hearing. He was nominated by President Bush to the D.C. Circuit of Appeals, which I think most people agree is the second highest court in the land. And he never had this day. The Hispanic element of this hearing is important, but I do not want it to be lost. This is mostly about liberal and conservative politics more than anything else."

UPDATE: A Democratic operative points out that Graham was wrong to assert that Estrada "never had a chance to have this hearing." The Bush nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court did, in fact, have his day before the Judiciary Committee. It came on September 19, 2002, roughly half a year before Estrada was initially filibustered by the Senate.


Feinstein lays out examples of conservative judicial activism.

Abortion protester whisked out of hearing. An anti-abortion protester briefly disrupted the opening of Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination hearing.

The outburst came during Sen. Dianne Feinstein's opening statement Monday. A man in room interrupted her remarks by shouting: "Senator. What about the unborn!" He called abortion "genocide."

Security quickly took him out. Sotomayor turned her head briefly toward her family and friends seated in the front row as the man was taken away and his shouts faded.

The episode prompted a warning by committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy that no displays for or against the nominee would be tolerated from observers.

Sessions greets Sotomayor with "wise Latina" comment. The top-ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee has greeted Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor with skepticism.

Sen. Jeff Sessions on Monday cited Sotomayor's much-publicized remarks about the notion that a "wise Latina" woman might be better suited than a white male without the same life experiences.

At the same time, the Alabama senator criticized President Barack Obama's statement that he preferred someone for the high court who has shown empathy with people. He said that "empathy for one party is always prejudice for the other."

"I will not vote for, and no senator should vote for" anyone who will not render justice impartially, he said.

"Call it empathy, call it prejudice or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it's not law," he said. "In truth, it's more akin to politics and politics has no place in the courtroom."

Hearing starts with Leahy praise. On the cusp of history, Sonia Sotomayor listened intently in a packed Senate hearing room Monday as lawmakers began confirmation hearings on her appointment as the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

"She's been a judge for all Americans. She'll be a justice for all Americans," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee and an avid supporter of the nomination.

In opening remarks, Leahy likened Sotomayor to other judicial pioneers, citing Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice seated on the high court, as well as Louis Brandeis, the first Jew, and Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman.

"Let no one demean this extraordinary woman," Leahy said in a warning to committee Republicans to tread lightly in the days ahead.

The day's schedule included speeches from all 19 lawmakers on the committee, 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans, followed by Sotomayor's opening statement.

Questioning of Sotomayor will wait for Tuesday.

Sotomayor arrives. Sonia Sotomayor has arrived for her Senate Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

As the week of hearings begins, Republicans and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are renewing their debate over her qualifications to render justice impartially.

"She's not far left. She's not far right. She's mainstream," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., countered that Sotomayor appeared to be "the typical liberal activist judge who will push the law, who believes in identity type politics and seeing people as groups more than individuals."

Sotomayor, an appeals court judge who would be the first Hispanic justice _ and only the third woman _ made no comment as she arrived for her turn in the witness chair.

Witness list. Here are the witnesses testifying at Sotomayor's confirmation hearings:

The witness list:

American Bar Association Witnesses

Kim Askew, Chair of Standing Committee
Mary Boies, Primary Reviewer

Majority Witnesses

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York
Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police
David Cone, former Major League Baseball pitcher
JoAnne A. Epps, Dean, Temple University Beasley School of Law, on behalf of the National Association of Women Lawyers
Louis Freeh, former Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Michael J. Garcia, former U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York
Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Patricia Hynes, President, New York City Bar Association
Dustin McDaniel, Attorney General, State of Arkansas
Robert Morgenthau, former District Attorney, New York County, New York
Ramona Romero, National President, Hispanic National Bar Association
Congressman Jose E. Serrano, New York 16th District
Theodore M. Shaw, Professor, Columbia Law School
Kate Stith, Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law, Yale Law School
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Minority Witnesses

Linda Chavez, President, Center for Equal Opportunity
Sandy Froman, Esq., Former President, National Rifle Association of America
Dr. Stephen Halbrook, Attorney
Tim Jeffries, Founder, P7 Enterprises
Peter Kirsanow, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
David Kopel, Esq., Independence Institute
John McGinnis, Professor, Northwestern University School of Law
Neomi Rao, Professor, George Mason University School of Law
Frank Ricci, Director of Fire Services, ConnectiCOSH (Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health)
David Rivkin, Esq., Partner, Baker Hostetler
Nick Rosenkranz, Professor, Georgetown University School of Law
Ilya Somin, Professor, George Mason University School of Law
Lieutenant Ben Vargas, New Haven Fire Department
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, Americans United for Life