Sotomayor Hearings Take Me to CNN.com

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(Danville, California)

I was invited to be on CNN.com "live" this morning to be a commentator for the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Here are some of my observations:

-First of all, she's a shoo-in. Even Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, admitted that. "Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed," said Graham. Democrats have 60 members in their caucus, enough to block a filibuster.

-I predict at least 15 Republicans will ultimately vote to confirm her, so she'll be in by a comfortable margin.

-The questioning will be vigorous, nonetheless. The two most interesting cases include the New Haven firefighters' case (in which Sotomayor's ruling against the promotion of white firefighters was just overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court). The other case is the DC handgun ban, which was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court during the past year. Sotomayor now calls the Second Amendment right of individuals to bear arms "settled law."

-Abortion will come up. In fact, two protesters were already ejected for shouting anti-abortion comments. Don't count on Sotomayor to say how she'll vote if Roe v. Wade comes before the court again in a related case. I do wonder if she will say it is "settled law." After all, Roe v. Wade is 36 years old, whereas the DC v. Heller handgun case is just over a year old.

-Republicans have every right to challenge Sotomayor on the fine points of the law and Constitution, even if her confirmation appears to be inevitable. It's not meanspirited, as some claim; it's their job and part of the "checks and balances" of the Constitution!

-Ranking Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, questioned a widely-discussed comment Judge Sotomayor made that as a "wise Latina" she would come to a better legal opinion that a white male. "I want to be clear: I will not vote for--and no senator should vote for--an individual nominated by any President who is not fully committed to fairness and impartiality toward every person who appears before them," Sessions said.

-Democrats were wise to point out often that this is Sotomayor's third confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate. She was first appointed to the federal bench by Republican President George H.W. Bush, then "promoted" to the Court of Appeals by Democratic President Clinton. No other sitting Justice can say that. Democrats argue she has had bipartisan support in the past--a sign she'll be fair in the future. "I'm not sure how many of this panel can sit here today and seriously suggest that she comes to the bench with a personal agenda," said Senator Charles Schumer of New York.

-Politics is a big part of this process (as it always is), even though it is not supposed to be. Put on your calendar that today was the start of Campaign 2010, and that Sotomayor's appointment will be an issue in many key Senate races next year.

-The understatement of the day came from my former boss,
Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), when he said, “Some think nomination hearings have become entirely too scripted.”

-Ouch! Republicans used then-Senator Barack Obama's own words against him today. Senator Obama led the opposition to the appointments of a black woman and a Hispanic man, both of whom were ultimately defeated, to the federal bench. He opposed them because they were conservatives, just as Republicans oppose Sotomayor for being too liberal. "How can one standard be fair, and the other not?" some pondered.

-Politics, Chapter Two: Sotomayor was selected because she has the legal and judicial experience for the job, but also because she's a Latin woman. Senator Dianne Feinstein, of California, said as much in her opening statement: “Your nomination I view with a great sense of personal pride.”

-Politics, Chapter Three: Republicans--especially in crucial states such as Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Ohio--will be careful not to offend Hispanic voters. The GOP usually does well among Latinos, the nation's fastest growing demographic group, with George W. Bush getting 45 percent of Latino votes in 2004. As I've said, politics is part if the equation, even though it's not supposed to be.

-As with everything else in life and as I pointed out today, the internet and new media are playing a pioneering role in these hearings. Just about every ruling and writing of Judge Sotomayor can be downloaded. Even videos of some of her controversial speeches are on YouTube. I remember back in 1993, when I worked on Ruth Bader Ginsberg's confirmation hearings. LexisNexis was just getting started, and the internet was a mere infant. We actually had to look up most of our information in books and old case files. My, how things have changed!

-As always, these hearings should be fascinating. Please post your comments and observations; and please feel free to disagree with mine. It's a democracy, after all!

While the media has been focused on M. Jackson and S. Sotomayor, the Congress has been busy. They have voted out of committee a God-awful Health Care Reform Bill, that with "cap and trade" will finish off half the small businesss in the country!

Whoa there! Sotomayor wants us to consider foreign law when ruling on Constitutional issues in the United States???? Globalism has no place in the deliberations of the Supreme Court of the United States UNLESS the Constitution should be changed. Lord willing, it won't be! Legal Realism be damned!

Senator Kohl's use of the word "scripted" is indeed an understatment. This woman has been so well rehearsed and prepared to "pussyfoot" around the real questions that no one will ever get a straight answer to the real questions raised by some of her past comments, such as the one made at Duke Law School.

Sotomayor's past statements showed her to be inclined to legislate from the bench and also to be "empathetic," i.e. biased for certain parties. Yet, she sits before the Senators and calmly says the opposite. No question that her personal story is "compelling" or that she is very bright. That doesn't mean she won't be a threat to the Constitution. She would be dangerous on the bench. Sooooo, isn't there some other bright, well prepared minority judge out there, Hispanic, female, black--whatever, who could rule dispassionately on the law?

"To Tell the Truth," will the REAL Sonia Sotomayor stand up? Will anybody call her on the obvious contradictions between her testimony today and what she is on record as saying repeatedly? "Liar, liar, pants on fire" sort of rhymes with "Sotomayor," doesn't it?

Please, PLEASE, won't anyone call attention to her connection with the unsavory La Raza?

It would be nice if the Republicans would suddenly develop some backbone, so that there could be substantive hearings on Sotomayor, instead of the namby-pamby stuff we've been hearing. Sure, they need the Latino vote and the women's votes; but they shouldn't assume that these voters look no deeper than ethnicity and gender. They may lose the votes of some conservative Republicans to the Independents if they don't develop spines.

I certainly hope someone brings up Sotomayor's connection to La Raza. That cannot be ignored!

Sonia seems to be "speaking out of both sides of her mouth," to use an old expression for hypocrisy. Having seen her speaking at Duke, when she joked about the courts not making policy, or rather that she shouldn't have said they did because "it was on tape," and having heard her repeated comments about one's superior judicial qualification just by virtue of being a Latina, I found her comments today about adhering to the law very unconvincing.

Sotomayor is a disaster about to hit the United States. She is the appointment of a man who seems bent on destroying this country as we have known it.

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