Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Question Time

Judge Sonia Sotomayor mostly smiled and nodded her way through her first day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee as the senators went through their opening statements. The statements ran mostly along party lines; Democrats supported her and Republicans criticized her. Some of the more interesting comments came from the irony-challenged conservatives like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who warned of the the risk of “personal prejudices” forming the basis for judicial decisions, and using their personal background as a basis for their rulings. This from a man who was turned down for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his history of racially-tinged prosecutions. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “Your opinions suggest that you’d limit Constitutional rights.” Oddly enough, Mr. Cornyn had no objection to the Bush administration and its appointees doing the same thing — for real.

The Democrats mostly came to the defense of Ms. Sotomayor, including some rather pointed knocks at the current members of the Supreme Court including Chief Justice Roberts. (The Republicans objected that the hearing was not about the Chief Justice, and promptly brought up the failed appointment of Judge Miguel Estrada to prove that they could also be distracting.)

The one opening statement I was waiting to hear was from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), the newest member of the committee and one of the few non-lawyers on the panel. He was serious and humble as he took his place at the end of the line.

Today the committee starts questioning Judge Sotomayor with 30 minutes allocated to each senator. It will probably go as scripted, and, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said with unusual candor, “This is mostly about liberal vs. conservative politics…. Now, unless you have a complete meltdown, you’re going to get confirmed.”