Sotomayor Makes Reserved Opening Statement as Senate Notes Her Activism

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 13, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Sotomayor Makes Reserved Opening Statement as Senate Notes Her Activism

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 13
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor took a relatively reserved approach in her opening remarks to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Her comments came after Republican members of the panel noted her penchant for judicial activism.

Sotomayor is the first Supreme Court nominee pro-abortion President Barack Obama has put forward and she would replace retiring pro-abortion Justice David Souter if confirmed.

Obama, leading pro-abortion senators, and pro-abortion groups have also said they feel comfortable Sotomayor is supportive enough of unlimited abortions throughout pregnancy to warrant a Senate confirmation vote.

Although Republicans on the Judiciary Committee talked about the kind of judicial activism that led to Roe v. Wade and its more than 50 million abortions since 1973, Sotomayor didn’t address it.

Instead, Sotomayor offered an understated defense of her experience as a federal appeals court and lower court judge.

“Throughout my seventeen years on the bench, I have witnessed the human consequences of my decisions. Those decisions have not been made to serve the interests of any one litigant, but always to serve the larger interest of impartial justice,” Sotomayor claimed.

“The process of judging is enhanced when the arguments and concerns of the parties to the litigation are understood and acknowledged,” she said. “That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our judicial system. My personal and professional experiences help me to listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case.”

The remarks saw Sotomayor seek to combine the emphasis on the rule of law her detractors say she lacks with the so-called "empathy" that Obama has said he wants of judges.

Sotomayor also sought to diffuse criticism from pro-life advocates who say she exposed her pro-abortion views when she served as a board member for a Puerto Rican civil rights group.

The group took stridently pro-abortion views, advocating for abortion for any reason and paid for at taxpayer expense, while Sotomayor served on its board of directors.

“My career as an advocate ended—and my career as a judge began," she said about her supposed change in approach in 1992 when she became a district court judge.

The comments came after Republican lawmakers pointed out their concerns.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, a pro-life Alabama Republican who is the top GOP member on the committee, called Sotomayor’s views on the role of personal experience in judging “shocking and offensive to me.”

“I will not vote for—no senator should vote for—an individual nominated by any president who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court,” said Sessions.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a pro-life South Carolina Republican, said Obama’s saying that empathy was more important than impartiality on the court may make it so he can’t support Sotomayor.

“I can assure you that if I applied Senator Obama’s standard to your nomination, I wouldn’t vote for you, because the standard that he articulated would make it impossible for anybody with my view of the law and society to vote for someone with your activism and background,” he said.

“If we start applying that to nominees, it will ruin the judiciary," he added.

Still, he acknowledged the reality that Sotomayor will very likely be approved, especially since Democrats now have 60 votes with which to stop a filibuster of any nominee or bill.

“Unless you have a complete meltdown, you’re going to get confirmed and I don’t think you will [melt down],” he told Sotomayor. “The drama being created here is interesting.”

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