Supreme Court Nominations
Witnesses Line Up to Testify at Sotomayor Hearings
Posted Jul 9, 2009 11:40 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Sonia Sotomayor will make her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday as it begins its first day of hearings on her nomination to replace retired Justice David H. Souter.
Sotomayor received a unanimous rating of “well-qualified” from the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary based on its analysis of her integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says the rating should rebut critics who say Sotomayor has been harsh or bullying on the bench.
ABAJournal.com will have live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the hearings beginning Monday. That coverage and related nomination posts can be found at this link.
Kim Askew, the chairwoman of the ABA standing committee, and Mary Boies, the primary reviewer of Sotomayor, will testify for the association, the New York Times reports. Their testimony will follow Sotomayor's questioning and will likely begin Thursday, according to Judiciary Committee majority spokeswoman Erica Chabot. While the standing committee was unanimous in its well-qualified assessment, its vote on her 1997 nomination to the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was mixed. At that time, a substantial majority found her well-qualified, and a minority found her qualified.
Sotomayor is likely to face tough questioning by some Republicans who want to know more about her ruling against white firefighters as a New York-based federal appeals judge in Ricci v. DeStefano. Sotomayor was a member of the 2nd Circuit panel that upheld a decision by the city of New Haven, Conn., to throw out a fire department promotional exam because no blacks got top scores. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed in a June decision.
The plaintiff in the case, white firefighter Frank Ricci, is one of 14 witnesses scheduled to testify for Republicans, the Associated Press reports.
On the Democratic side, a surprise witness is former Major League pitcher David Cone, who is likely to testify about a Sotomayor opinion on behalf of players that ended the 1995 baseball strike.
Other lines of questioning may focus on Sotomayor’s remarks in which she said the ethnicity and sex of judges may make a difference in their judging. “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” Sotomayor said in the often-quoted remark.
The National Law Journal outlines 12 themes likely to emerge in the hearings, ranging from Sotomayor's “rags to robes story” to her views on limits on presidential power.
The hearings will provide viewers a glimpse of another person taking on a new role: former comedian Al Franken, a Democrat who won a court battle to become Minnesota’s newest senator. He told the Associated Press that he sees himself playing the role of the “the people’s proxy” in the hearings.
“As someone who will have been in the committee a grand total of six days and isn't an attorney, I kind of see myself fulfilling a certain role for Americans watching the hearings," Franken said. “I kind of see myself as people's proxy, not that the other senators aren't, but certainly that's the kind of role I want to play."