Sotomayor Hearings (VIDEO, UPDATES): Day 2
Judge Sonia Sotomayor appeared Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Our full liveblog of the day's events is below.
Graham asks if Sotomayor has a "temperament problem": "When you look at the evaluation of the judges on the second circuit you stand out like a sore thumb in terms of your temperament," said the South Carolina Republican, who went on to call Sotomayor a "bully."
Kyl accuses Sotomayor of "relativism run amok":
Sen. Jon Kyl gave a lengthy speech during his question and answer session with Sonia Sotomayor that was undoubtedly the type of red-meat inquiry for which conservatives pined.
The Arizona Republican accused the Obama Court nominee of "embracing" the different jurisprudence that women and Hispanics could bring to the court, of championing the idea of judges having personal interpretation of law, and of "relativism run amok."
In what was far more a lecture than a back-and-forth (Kyl went on for nearly ten minutes before allowing Sotomayor to answer) the senator did not reference a single case decided during the judge's career. Rather, he honed in on the infamous "wise Latina" remarks delivered on several occasions during her public speeches.
"You seem to be celebrating [the superiority of being a minority judge]," Kyl said at one point. "You understand it will make a difference," he added at another point. "And not only are you not saying anything negative about that. But you are embracing [it]."
Finally, after waiting her turn, a somewhat exasperated Sotomayor chimed in, noting that there was little of substance in Kyl's critique.
"I have a record for 17 years, decision after decision," she replied. "It is very clear that I don't base my judgments on my personal experiences or my feelings or my biases. All of my decisions show my respect for the rule of law." -- Sam Stein
Sotomayor says "We're not robots": Some more from Sotomayor's exchange with Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) on her "wise Latina" remarks. Sotomayor defended her comment by saying she was merely describing the way individual experiences influence a judge, noting that they are not "robots."
"I was talking about the very important goal of the justice system, 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 ...
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."
Sotomayor: "Judges can't rely on what's in their heart"
RNC web ad hits Sotomayor on comments she already clarified:
The Republican National Committee, not surprisingly, has not been won over by Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court.
About twenty minutes into the post-lunch session of Tuesday's hearings, the GOP's campaign arm blasted out a web video to reporters, accusing the Obama nominee of being a judicial activist.
"President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, she may have a different view about how the courts should work," goes the ad. "She apparently thinks the judicial branch should look a lot more like the legislative branch. Rather than interpreting the law, activist judges have used their appointments to make policy, time and time again." (Watch the video here.)
The ad is proof, in some regards, of how much these hearings are truly theater. Sotomayor, as Senator Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), noted on Monday, will be confirmed to the court absent some complete meltdown. And even as she clarifies portions of her record -- including comments about how the Court of Appeals has a role in formulating judicial precedent -- her partisan opponents likely won't be assuaged, just as her backers will likely claim vindication.
-- Sam Stein
Grassley: "People Always Say I Have The Ability To Turn People On":
Following an interruption by a protester, Sen. Grassley got the whole room laughing by joking about his ability to inspire passion.
Another protester interrupts hearing:
The first protest of day came just after 2 p.m EST, when a man started yelling insults such as "baby killer" from the back of the room before being removed from the hearing.
Republicans deride Sotomayor testimony as 'confirmation conversion':
Senate Republicans were quick to label as a "confirmation conversion" Sotomayor's repeated pledge to follow the law and not allow personal biases to influence her unduly.
Republicans leveled the charge in one of several emails sent to reporters during the hearing, saying Sotomayor's testimony is at odds with her record.
The committee's Republicans also branded Sotomayor's testimony related to gun ownership rights as a "confirmation conversion."
Sessions becomes the subject of Sotomayor hearings:
The confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor have become, in a small but significant way, a referendum on the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who took over the post from Pennsylvania Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter, is under intense pressure to land blows on Sotomayor without offending Hispanic voters. It's a tough task, made all the more difficult by Sessions' history of racially insensitive positions and statements.
Read the rest of Sam Stein's piece here.
Sotomayor on executive power: no president is above the law:
Judge Sonia Sotomayor said on Tuesday that a president does not have the legal authority to act in violation of the constitution though she would not go much further in detailing her opinion on executive power.
Asked by Senator Diane Feinstein, (D-Calif.), to respond to some of the power grabs of the Bush administration, Sotomayor insisted that as a judge she would have to consider each action on a case by case basis.
"The best expression of how to address this always in a particular situation was made by Justice Jackson in his concurrence in the Youngstown Steel seizure cases," the Obama Court nominee said. "He says that you always have to look at an assertion by the president that he or she is acting within executive power in the context of what Congress has done or not done. First you look at whether Congress has expressly or explicitly addressed or authorized the president to act in a certain way. And if the president has then he is acting at his highest stature of power. If he is acting in prohibition of an expressed or implied act of Congress then he is working at his lowest end. If he is acting where Congress hasn't spoken then we are in, what justice Jackson called, the zone of twilight."
Sotomayor would go on to firmly declare that "no one is above the law," including presidents operating in times of national security crisis. "The president can't act in violation of the constitution," she said.
It was a seemingly innocent and obvious declaration. But, given the current political climate, it provides a small window into how Sotomayor could rule on issues of executive power, indefinite detention, wiretapping and the like. -- Sam Stein
Sotomayor describes how nunchucks work: Responding to a question about a recent ruling in which Sotomayor voted to uphold a New York State ban on nunchucks, or nunchaku, Sotomayor goes into an extended description of how the weapons function:
HATCH: As a result of this very permissive legal standard -- and it is permissive -- doesn't your decision in Maloney mean that virtually any state or local weapons ban would be permissible?
SOTOMAYOR: Sir, in Maloney, we were talking about nunchuk sticks.
HATCH: I understand.
SOTOMAYOR: Those are martial arts sticks.
HATCH: Two sticks bound together by rawhide or some sort of a...
SOTOMAYOR: Exactly. And -- and when the sticks are swung, which is what you do with them, if there's anybody near you, you're going to be seriously injured, because that swinging mechanism can break arms, it can bust someone's skull.
This ruling had previously been raised as an issue by vote-suppression guru Ken Blackwell, among others, who attempted to cite the ruling to show that Sotomayor's nomination was "a declaration of war against America's gun owners."
Dems happy with Sotomayor hearings so far:
Democrats working on the Sotomayor confirmation tell the Huffington Post they are more than pleased with the way the early session has gone. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), talked with reporters outside the hearing room during the first break, and he mocked Republicans for focusing on trivial political issues rather than the Supreme Court nominee's lengthy records.
As he spoke, a Democratic operative passed on some observations and talking points that are being pushed around in Sotomayor's defense.
1. She answered "wise Latina" effectively -- will be difficult for Republicans to come back at that.
2. Sessions didn't lay a glove on her -- the only case he would talk about out of thousands is Ricci, and she answered it.
3. She's at ease and in control up there -- very comfortable and forthcoming.