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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Theme of Day Three of Sotomayor Hearings is "Asked and Answered"

Day three of the Judiciary Committee hearings saw more of the same from the Senate Republicans. In stark contrast to the kid gloves they used with Justices Alito and Roberts during their confirmation hearings, Republicans aggressively questioned Judge Sotomayor. Nonetheless, she handled herself with the poise and patience she has exhibited throughout the hearings. Although she was careful not to prejudge issues that might come before the Supreme Court, Judge Sotomayor continued to answer the senators’ questions with candor and insight.

The Committee finished the first round of questioning with Senators Coburn (R-OK) , Cardin (D-MD) , Klobuchar (D-MN) , Kaufman (D-DE) , Specter (D-PA) and Franken (D-MN) taking their turns to question Judge Sotomayor. Senator Coburn was particularly hostile in questioning Judge Sotomayor about gun rights and whether there is a constitutional right to self-defense. Judge Sotomayor asserted that to her knowledge, the Supreme Court had never recognized a constitutional self-defense right, but that most states do allow people to defend themselves when necessary. Late in the session, Judge Sotomayor’s love of the Perry Mason television program was a topic of questioning and we learned that Senator Franken is also a Perry Mason fan, though both Judge Sotomayor and Senator Franken were stumped on the name of the episode in which Perry lost a case. (It was "The Case of the Deadly Verdict," by the way.)

After a break for a closed door session the hearing resumed with the beginning of the second round of questioning. So far, the second round has been more of the same from the Republicans on the Committee. Senators Sessions (R-AL) and Hatch (R-UT) continued to question Judge Sotomayor on her “wise Latina” comment. Judge Sotomayor patiently reiterated that it was a remark that “fell flat” and was intended to inspire a group of students. She continued to recognize that it might be misunderstood and sought to correct the impression of those who took her comment the wrong way.

Day four will continue with the second round of questioning of Judge Sotomayor before the Committee moves on to testimony from witnesses including members of the American Bar Association's judicial rating panel and Frank Ricci, one of the litigants in this term's "New Haven firefighter" case. Perhaps we'll hear something new from Senate Republicans tomorrow.

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