A look at some exchanges during the fourth day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor:
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas: “You’ve also said that the Supreme Court decisions that a lot of us believe made law actually were an interpretation of the law. So I’m — I would like for you to clarify that. If the Supreme Court in the next few years holds that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, would that be making the law? Or would that be interpreting the law?”
Sotomayor: “Senator, that question is so embedded with its answer, isn’t it? Meaning if the court rules one way and I say that’s making law, then it forecasts that I have a particular view of whatever arguments may be made on this issue, suggesting that it’s interpreting the Constitution. ... This is the type of situation where even the characterizing of whatever the court may do as one way or another suggests that I have both prejudged an issue and that I come to that issue with my own personal views suggesting an outcome. And neither is true.”
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Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa.: “You have had some experience on the pilot program conducted by the judicial — federal judicial conference. And these were the conclusions reached by the pilot program. They said, quote, Attitudes of judges toward electronic media coverage of civil proceedings were initially neutral and became more favorable after experience under the pilot program. ... Would you agree with that based on your own personal experience having television in your courtroom?”
Sotomayor: “My experience was limited, so I can’t speak to the more broad conclusion of that report. I can say that as I — as we discussed when I met with you, Senator, mine was positive. ... But my experience has generally been positive, and I would certainly be able to recount that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: “What is identity politics?”
Sotomayor: “Politics based simply on a person’s characteristics, generally referred to either race or ethnicity or gender, religion. It is politics based on ...”
Graham: “Do you embrace identity politics personally?”
Sotomayor: “Personally, I don’t as a judge in any way embrace it with respect to judging. As a person, I do believe that certain groups have and should express their views on whatever social issues may be out there. But as I understand the word identity politics, it’s usually denigrated because it suggests that individuals are not considering what’s best for America ... and that I don’t believe in.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: “My question is, as you have seen this — and you must have seen how widely broadcast this is — that you become an instant role model for women. And how do you look at this — your appointment to the court — affecting empowerment for women?”
Sotomayor: “My career as a judge has shown me that, regardless of what my desires were, that my life, what I have accomplished, does serve as an inspiration for others. It’s a sort of awesome sense of responsibility. It’s one of the reasons that I do so many activities with people in the community, not just Latinos but all groups because I understand that it is women. It’s Latinos, it’s immigrants. It’s Americans of all kinds and all backgrounds.