Today was the first day that Judge Sotomayor answered questions from the Senate. The questions, ranging from the relevant to the wildly inane, covered many topics including Judge Sotomayor’s judicial record, speeches, and her background with PRLDEF. The main focus of today’s hearing was the Ricci case, the Judge’s remarks that she hoped a wise Latina would come to a better legal conclusion than a wise old man, and the Maloney 2nd Amendment case.
Much of the day focused on her per curiam opinion in Ricci and the now infamous “wise Latina” comment she made in a few speeches. While most Republican Senators tried to paint Judge Sotomayor as a judge with an agenda, the back-and-forth volleys showed something entirely different. Judge Sotomayor clearly showed that the Second Circuit’s decision in Ricci followed established Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent, and that the comment in her speeches have been taken out of context. In discussing Ricci, Judge Sotomayor confirmed that the Second Circuit panel had carefully reviewed and adopted a “very thorough 78 page decision from the district court” that thoroughly discussed both Second Circuit and Supreme Court precedent the panel was required to follow. She emphasized that Ricci was “not a quota case,…not an affirmative action case, this was a challenge to a test that everybody agreed had a very wide difference between the pass rate of a variety of different groups.” It was the Supreme Court that announced a completely new standard by which to judge Title VII cases. With respect to her speeches, Judge Sotomayor clarified that each was made to students and that her comments reflected her desire to inspire and encourage them to recognize that “their life experiences would enrich the legal system.”
Senators Kyl and Hatch among others questioned Judge Sotomayor at length about her understanding of the Second Amendment, the foundations for the right to privacy in the Constitution, and her views of stare decisis. In response to each question, Judge Sotomayor was reasonable, authoritative, and extremely forthcoming. In short, she demonstrated precisely the intelligence and temperament that will serve her well as a Justice on the Supreme Court.
Stay tuned for more updates tomorrow as the senators finish their first round of questioning.