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Posted by on Jul 14, 2009 in Politics, Society | 2 comments

Sotomayor: It’s Day Two, and Sen. Kyl Stands Out

Yesterday, I commented on the single-minded approach and the one-track mind of Republican Senators during their introductory statements at Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings.

It was a cacophony of insinuations and implications, all of which included one, some or all of the following:

The “Wise Latina” comment;” Sotomayor’s personal background, gender, prejudices and sympathies; her life experiences; her personal beliefs and preferences; her biases and prejudices; her Latina heritage; and—we can blame Obama for these last two—“the empathy standard,” and “what’s in a judge’s heart.”

One of my readers commented that it was like watching paint dry. I don’t know if the reader was referring to the Republicans’ repetitive, never-ending refrain, or on my reporting of such.

Today, I must admit, it was a little different.

Republican Senators actually started questioning Sotomayor on, and debating, issues, cases, the law and the Constitution. Things that would seem to matter when confirming a judge to the highest Court in the land.

There was, however, one notable exception: Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona.

It could have been all over again like watching paint dry. But this time, Judge Sotomayor had the chance to answer her critics and detractors. Thus the paint Kyl frantically slapped at the Sotomayor wall didn’t even have the chance to stick, let alone dry.

Of course, Kyl went after Sotomayor, not based on her record, not on her qualifications, not on her character and integrity, but on whether she would agree with President Obama’s comments on “empathy” and on “what’s in a judge’s heart.”

To which a composed Sotomayor answered:

No sir, I would not approach the issue of judgment in the way the president did…. Judges shouldn’t rely on what’s in their heart, they don’t determine the law. Congress makes the law. The job of a judge is to apply the law. Its not the heart … it’s the law.

Of course, Kyl had to read at length and quiz Sotomayor at equal length on her speech at Seton Hall University six years ago—the one containing the now famous passages or personal background, life experience, and of a wise Latino woman.

Sotomayor’s measured, calm and plain response was:

I have a record of 17 years, decision after decision after decision. 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.

She also said, “The words I chose, the rhetorical flourish…A bad idea.” But, “I believe every person, regardless of their background, can be good and wise judges.”

And, again, Kyl: “Have you always been able to have a legal basis for decisions you have rendered and not rely on such extralegal concept such as empathy?” once again, alluding to President Obama’s statement.

To which Sotomayor replied, “Exactly, sir. We apply law to facts, we don’t apply feelings to facts.”

And so, the paint just dolefully dripped off the wall.

Off to Day Three, and hopefully better painting weather.

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