Sotomayor’s First Day

Move over Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito, here comes Sonia Sotomayor .

I’m not sure who that was appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the woman everyone expected. As Sen. Lindsey Graham said:

“I listen to you today, I think I’m listening to [Chief Justice John] Roberts.”

She talked about “settled law”, precedent, how a justice must set aside their emotions, even to the point of saying she disagreed with Obama’s declaration that in judicial decisons, “the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart.”

Perhaps the most unconvincing portion of her testimony, however, was her defense of the “wise Latina woman” comment. She began by declaring that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor couldn’t have meant what she said when she said “a wise old man and wise old woman would agree on a judicial case’s outcome”. Surely, Sotomayor reasoned, if one of them came to a different conclusion, that wouldn’t mean they were unwise.

She claims her statement was a “rhetorical flourish which fell flat”. She pointed out that she was trying to inspire mostly Latino audiences when she included her “flourish” in a speech. A reminder of that so-called “rhetorical flourish” that was supposedly aimed at the O’Connor maxim:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Yeah, I’m having difficulty with the connection as well. She went on to say:

“What I was talking about was the obligation of judges to examine what they’re feeling as they’re adjudicating a case and to ensure that that’s not influencing the outcome,” Sotomayor told Sessions. “We have to recognize those feelings and put them aside.”

Really? That’s what Sotomayor was talking about? Then I agree that it was indeed a rhetorical flourish which fell flat because I got precisely the opposite meaning from what she originally said.

Apparently she figured it was time to declare that whatever she said it should make no difference, because you see —

“To give everyone assurances, I want to state upfront, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has equal opportunity to become a good and wise judge, regardless of their background or life experiences.”

Maybe it was just me, but I felt that Ms. Sotomayor was saying pretty much whatever the task demanded yesterday. I’m not at all assured that she believes anything she said in her “assurance” above. I thought her explanation about the “wise Latina” remark was poor at best.

That’s not to say she won’t be confirmed for the SCOTUS. She most likely will. In fact, I’d bet on it. However, that doesn’t mean she’s fooled anyone with the show she’s putting on during her confirmation hearings.

[Crossposted at QandO]

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