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Sessions Takes the Gloves Off

By Eva Rodriguez

The gloves are off -- at least for now.

In his opening statement, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, left little doubt that he and some other Republicans on the panel will press Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor -- and press her hard -- on whether she can keep her personal views from affecting her judicial judgments. Boiled down to its most primal state, the question becomes: Can the Puerto Rican nominee be fair to white guys and the well-off?

Sessions criticized Sotomayor in sharp and specific terms that are unusual for opening statements. He referred to her "troubled rulings," specifically the one in a case that blessed the decision by the city of New Haven to throw out promotions tests when no African American firefighters scored high enough. He referred to her assertion during a panel discussion at Duke that the "court of appeals is where policy is made." He talked about how some of her speeches, including those in which she has said it is almost impossible for a judge to divorce herself from ethnicity or personal experiences when deciding cases, seemed to suggest Sotomayor harbors "prejudice" in her decision-making.

It is fair to question Sotomayor on her speeches and past decisions. But what is going on -- and it happens in every confirmation hearing -- is that certain speeches, decisions or experiences are plucked from a nominee's record and harped on so much that they become short-hand to categorize -- or caricature -- the nominee's entire career. For Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., it was his work in the Reagan administration's Justice Department, where as a young lawyer he wrote legal memos on a whole host of hot-button issues, including abortion. For Samuel A. Alito Jr., it was his membership in an eating club at Princeton that at the time did not permit women and minorities; some senators came perilously close to suggesting that Alito was racist as a result of the affiliation. For Sotomayor, it is the firefighters' case -- Ricci v. DeStefano -- and her comments about "a wise Latina woman" being able to make a better decision than a white male judge. Sotomayor will no doubt get hammered over and over again on these matters tomorrow, when senators will get their first chance to question her directly.

Harping on such matters makes for great fodder to rally the base and others already predisposed agree with your opinion of the nominee. But it does two other things: It prevents a full and rich discussion of the nominee's entire record and it gives the nominee the chance to stand behind rehearsed answers prepared in anticipation of such a grilling. For once, I'd love to witness an open, candid and spontaneous discussion between senator and nominee on a topic that hadn't already been thoroughly and often uselessly explored. I'd gladly trade moments of drama for slivers of substance.

By Eva Rodriguez  | July 13, 2009; 1:06 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Comments

Eva,

Your last paragraph said it all - excellent observations.

Posted by: DROSE1 | July 13, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"It prevents a full and rich discussion "

Oh, the "rich" experience of "wise Latina woman" who makes better decisions than a white male?

A disturbing pattern, Eva.

Why is a discussion of her speeches on jurism, her discussion of judicial activism, and her reversed decision NOT a "full and rich" discussion?

Because she is rightly uncomfortable?

Or because it is far, far less aggressive than the attacks on white male nominees from opposition party members?

How did this pan out in the WaPo "salons"?

How much did Obama PACs pay for the "right"" answer in the Wapo?

Oh, the answer might be whatever Goldman Sachs, his largest contributor, wanted to pay. Eh?

Sotomayor is biased. She has long been biased and never changed. She will become more open in her ethnic and gender bias once seated with a lifetime appointment.

And it is vital, and only fair, to question her.

Posted by: mj777nnnntgggg1 | July 13, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"I'd gladly trade moments of drama for slivers of substance."

But ... the GOP's constituents love the drama ... which is why they support the Queen of Political Drama, Palin. We all know that Sotamayor is going to the Court, so any savvy GOP'er would make nice and court the Hispanic vote ... but Sessions is just too stupid for that!

Posted by: paris1969 | July 13, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"Sotomayor is biased. She has long been biased and never changed. She will become more open in her ethnic and gender bias once seated with a lifetime appointment."

And your expertise is based on what? other than the sound bytes we are exposed to ad nauseum?

A fairer question would be: What gives a White Man the predisposed position of impartiality, when his worldview has been shaped in the same fashion as those of every other individual in the U.S.: his life experiences? I'd dare say that Justices Roberts and Alito have VERY little experience interacting with anyone that doesn't look like them. And they're REAL unbiased and impartial. What a double-standarded crock of crap the minority caucus has become these days.

Posted by: myplacegrill | July 13, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

All you "Peckerwoods" like Sessions better enjoy while you can. The next time there will be an even larger Democratic majority and they'll shove a flaming liberal right down your throats! LOL......

Posted by: Tomcat3 | July 13, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Sen Sessions speech was an embarrassment to ALL, Americans.

I notice all the republicans on the committee are using their time to take jabs at POTUS Obama, they just don't know when to stop digging their hole.

Posted by: knjincvc | July 13, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Critics of Sotomayor over her "Latina" comments should all grow up. This woman did nothing but study hard, work hard, followed the straight and narrow and has been a fair and very decent judge. She is highly intelligent and learned her lessons in all the very American institutions. Her modest background (growing up in public housing in the Bronx) surely is a far cry the privileged surroundings of the Ivy League Princeton. Those are 2 dichotomies that Sotomayor has dealt with through her many years as a lawyer, prosecutor, judge, etc. In the thousands of rulings, none were found to be leaning towards a certain race. This is Republican propaganda. The white firefighter has been known to sure for his dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Posted by: mstratas | July 13, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

For all the People trying to imply that the GOP is somehow "Biased" I challenge you to show any affiliation of any of them with anything even remotely "Race Based"!

Meanwhile, beyond Sotomayer's repeated biased Comments, and Decisions;

is her Membership to a group called La Raza.

La Raza for those of you Thicker than Bricks;

Translates as "The Race"! The Goal of La Raza is "Everything for-The Race!".

I have a REAL Problemo with THAT!

Posted by: SAINT---The | July 13, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"...Sotomayor is biased. She has long been biased and never changed..."

Can you cite the string of court cases that confirm this? Or are you just channeling Limpnuts?

"... She will become more open in her ethnic and gender bias once seated with a lifetime appointment..."

OOOOOOHHHHHH!! scary. Let's hide under the bed.

====================

Posted by: osmor | July 13, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Sessions sees his lilywhite world collapsing around him. He will embarrass himself and the GOP. It's time for him to join the 21st century.

Posted by: jckdoors | July 13, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

REPOSTING and excellent post from another Blogger

From the mouth of Mr. Sessions:

“The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation’s security.”

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | July 13, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Is there anything more puke-inducing than white men, particularly those from the South with questionable pasts (Sessions), lecturing a self-made Puerto Rican woman on discrimination?

Posted by: keller1 | July 13, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

from a confused poster: "...For all the People trying to imply that the GOP is somehow "Biased" I challenge you to show any affiliation of any of them with anything even remotely "Race Based"!...


O.K. here's a few:

Sen. George Allen publicly denigrates a minority person by using a racial slur.


South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster are members of the Camellia Ball and Columbia Ball, respectively, two all-white clubs that hold annual debutante balls at swankly local clubs.

From this article: "...For Samuel A. Alito Jr., it was his membership in an eating club at Princeton that at the time did not
permit women and minorities..."

In South Carolina again, the Forest Lake Club, and country clubs in general, heavy with Republican membership and whites-only policies.

=================

Posted by: osmor | July 13, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Roberts' legal musings in the Reagan White House 20 years ago and Alito's socializing in college (30 years ago?) are a bit farther distant and less relevant to their Supreme Court nominations than Sotomayor's quite recent decision in the New Haven case, aren't they Ms. Rodrigues? You suggest these
situations are comparable. Why?

Posted by: mftill | July 13, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"Can the Puerto Rican nominee be fair to white guys and the well-off?"

So who is worrying about the white guys and the well-off, except a bigot like Jeff Sessions, whose mission in life seems to be to make sure that people like him keep their preogatives and their power. Jeff Sessions and his Republican party have played the Southern strategy race card too many times.

The white guys and the well-off have always gotten more than their fair share of everything in this country. Why worry about the white guys and the well-off when they still maintain control over the power and wealth of this country?

Posted by: Chagasman | July 13, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

osmor-Nice try! None of those fringe loonies are involved!

Senator Byrd however...

Sotomayer however...

Oh, and BTW, if there can be a Hispanic Caucus, and a Black Caucus...

As I said, it is NOT amusing to hear RACISTS accusing others of racism, because WE don't like them being Racists!

Posted by: SAINT---The | July 13, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it strange that they did not ask ask Roberts if he could be fair to little people, defendants, and minorities? I gues you are only activist when you want to help the downtrodden even a little bit. If you want to maintain the status quo (with the GOP seal of approval) you are reading the Constitution 100% correctly, it seems.

Posted by: jm817 | July 13, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Sessions would vote for Sotomayor, but Rush won't allow any of his foot soldiers to vote for a Sp!c on the court.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | July 13, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Sessions sees his lilywhite world collapsing around him. He will embarrass himself and the GOP. It's time for him to join the 21st century.
*********

sessions is lillywhite like obama is black as night, so why dont you bag the racial talk?

we all know its a-ok to show your own ignorance to indiscriminately go after white males, but still, it does show us all how ignorant you are

Posted by: dummypants | July 13, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it strange that they did not ask ask Roberts if he could be fair to little people, defendants, and minorities?
*******

no, obama just questioned whether he had the "heart" to be a good justice.

talk about an arrogant, holier than thou prick, thats our president for ya!

Posted by: dummypants | July 13, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

sessions was 110% right to say he was shocked and offended that sotomayor would say what she did.

can you imagine if roberts had said his juedo-christian white male background and experience would make him a better judge than an athiest or a wise latina?

it would've been complete garbage then and its complete garbage now. sotomayor should really just disown those comments and admit her mistake. they arent defensible, and she only harms herself if she doesnt disclaim them, and make herself look silly and intellectually unserious.

Posted by: dummypants | July 13, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

And your expertise is based on what? other than the sound bytes we are exposed to ad nauseum?
********
by sound bytes you mean "the words that came out of her mouth"?

hell, i think being steep in white wasp culture makes me fair superior to the black lady co-worker down the hall, but i dont go around telling people.

gesh, some supreme court nominees have no common sense

Posted by: dummypants | July 13, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

For all the People trying to imply that the GOP is somehow "Biased" I challenge you to show any affiliation of any of them with anything even remotely "Race Based"!

Meanwhile, beyond Sotomayer's repeated biased Comments, and Decisions;

is her Membership to a group called La Raza.

La Raza for those of you Thicker than Bricks;

Translates as "The Race"! The Goal of La Raza is "Everything for-The Race!".

I have a REAL Problemo with THAT!
*********

i know, its the sort of thing that makes you think the KKK wasnt such a cray idea after all.

Posted by: dummypants | July 13, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Using Sotomayor's decision in the Ricci case to suggest she is biased against white men is a great example of the absurdity of this process, and of how Republicans rely on (and play to) the ignorance of their base.

In Ricci, Sotomayor simply followed the Second Circuit's long-established rule, which is what judges do in 99.9% of cases.

An examination of Sotomayor's record - which we will not get from Sen. Sessions, since it would not serve his purpose - shows that in the vast majority of cases alleging racial discrimination that have come before her as a judge, she has ruled against the party alleging racial discrimination, just as she did in Ricci.

I would bet anything that you will not hear any Republican on the panel mention that indisputable fact, since it would interfere with the story they are telling to satisfy their base.

Posted by: continental46@aol.com | July 13, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Good God, the repubs will never, ever learn. Go ahead..attack the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court with your ridiculous charges of racism..go right ahead. So that in 2012 instead of gaining 31% of the Hispanic vote, you will get 15% of the vote. Hispanics are the fasting growing voter block in the country who are watching, listening and learning what the Republican Party is all about and what it really stands for.

Posted by: ilg123 | July 13, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I believe in the end, the real issue is that Sen. Sessions is less qualified to judge the new Supreme Justice, since he was turned down because of racial bias.

Posted by: jrubin1 | July 13, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Some of Sotomayor's past rulings are clearly biased, but she may turn out to be impartial once she reaches the Supreme Court, as other justices have done.

Posted by: Socialistic | July 13, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama could nominate James Madison to the Court and it would not matter to Sessions.

Sessions is motivated by only one thing: a transparent bitterness that has its roots in the U.S. Senate's rejection of his effort to obtain a seat for himself on the Federal Judiciary. It is a reality that is as obvious as his twang, and why no one calls him on it is beyond me.

Posted by: RadicalGlove | July 13, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I do believe that the statute of 'lady' justice is blindfolded for a reason. Culture or color blind would be nice.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | July 13, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

"Good God, the repubs will never, ever learn. Go ahead..attack the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court with your ridiculous charges of racism..go right ahead. So that in 2012 instead of gaining 31% of the Hispanic vote, you will get 15% of the vote. Hispanics are the fasting growing voter block in the country who are watching, listening and learning what the Republican Party is all about and what it really stands for."

-ilg123


Is this what it's all about? Trying to trade support for a Supreme Court pick for votes? I commend the Republicans for speaking out about their opinions despite this obvious point. I do not believe making this point can help the Democratic side - it makes it seem like Sotomayor was selected because of her race and gender, not for her record.

The points have been made ad nauseum by the media that Sotomayor is racist and flippant with the checks and balances associated with the law (her assertion that "appeals court is where law is made" is just as troubling as that other comment...). But the fact that the news media is replaying the same record until it breaks does not make it any less true. The definition of racism is believing that one person is superior to another based on something they cannot control.

This is also why I'm disgusted as I read posts by people like dummypants, who asserts that, as a WASP, he/she is better than a black, female coworker. The point is that it works both ways, and Sotomayor's comments make it seem like she does not agree.

I have problems with Alito's eating club just as much as I have problems with Sotomayor, and I believe this is not a unique view - even for a white male. For those who claim that Sotomayor has it harder than Alito, remember that Alito also was grilled over racism in Congress, but passed because the Republicans liked his views, and controlled the Senate. Sotomayor will be grilled over racism in Congress, but will pass because the Democrats like her views, and control the Senate. There is no room for claiming that Alito was given an easier pass than Sotomayor will be.

The system is flawed, but not broken. I do not believe that Sotomayor is the ONLY qualified candidate, nor can I make a knowledgeable argument that there is a white male candidate with a more desirable record who got looked over because of his race and gender. Sotomayor will do a good job on the bench, and will represent what a majority of the country thought in November 2008 as much as Alito represents what the a majority of the country thought in 2004.

Posted by: kaos_also | July 13, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

kaos_also writes:
"The points have been made ad nauseum by the media that Sotomayor is racist and flippant with the checks and balances associated with the law (her assertion that "appeals court is where law is made" is just as troubling as that other comment...). But the fact that the news media is replaying the same record until it breaks does not make it any less true. The definition of racism is believing that one person is superior to another based on something they cannot control."

----------------------------------------

No - these remain data points. The real question is - are they outliers, or do they represent her average views? More likely are they typical "sound bytes" - taken out of context?

In regards to her first point - it seems a valid one to me. As a male WASP, I never had to "bend" myself socially until I began to spend considerable time in Africa. I grew up in a world that matched my preconceptions. Someone outside that mainstream had had to fit in to a number of different societies - and I suspect that learning how to cope in different environments is bound to teach you empathy. It certainly has for me. Please note, folks - empathy is NOT sympathy. most of the time, for me, I am empathetic without being sympathetic.

In regards to her latter point, though - it is absolutely, positively true. Courts of Appeals are where the rubber meets the road - or where the law meets real life. It's where most serious precedent is established - where laws get "fleshed out" with real-world examples. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a tyro or a liar.

Posted by: iamweaver | July 13, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Wow, dummypants, et al, you really don't make a very good case against Sotomayor. La Raza is about as controversial as the NAACP or the Knights of Columbus. For those who don't know, the KKK was a terrorist organization that committed murder and arson on a wide scale over at least three periods of American history. I am unaware of any similar activities by La Raza, but perhaps you could enlighten us? As for calling our President arrogant, well, in Texas we say that it ain't bragging if you can do it. Next to a comment board smear artist like you, I'd say our President has plenty of justification to feel superior (hint: 'cause he is).

Posted by: benjaminanderson | July 13, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

DEMOCRATS TALKING POINT NUMBER ONE: Do not criticize this woman, she is the first Latina nominated to the high court...and if you do so you will be branded a racist...etc...etc...etc..

DEMOCRATS TALKING POINT NUMBER TWO: Do not bring up her comments about a "wise latina" or else you will be branded a racist...etc...etc..etc (See above TALKING POINT NUMBER ONE)

It's sad that the democrats and Sotomayor have made such a big deal about her race/ethnicity. The fact of the matter is, her Hispanic heritage should not have anything to do with why she was chosen. But unfortunately, it's obviously the number one reason she was picked. There are many, many other judges out there who don't have the history of blatantly racist statements on their resume, but they were ignored because they were not Hispanic.

Posted by: Barno1 | July 13, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

By the way, before anyone brands me a "racist" I am Hispanic.

Posted by: Barno1 | July 13, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Imagine Jeff Sessions taking issue with someone's objectivity with regard to ethnic background. What, the Republicans chose him as their point person on this issue because the Grand Kleagle of the KKK wasn't available?

Posted by: Bob22003 | July 13, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Well, I was trying to be genteel, but Saint remains thoroughly confused and continues to dig him/herself a bigger hole. Or continue stuffing a too-big foot in his/her mouth.

"...osmor-Nice try! None of those fringe loonies are involved!

Senator Byrd however...

Sotomayer however... ..."

Well, when Saint's challenge to point out biased GOP members was answered, and it was just a brief cursory listing, Saint decides to change the rules from GOP goobers to "those involved", whatever the heck that means. As for Senator Byrd, this discussion is not about him. Nobody that I am aware of is discussing his racist past and this is simply a red herring thrown out in desperation by some goober/goobette who can't make a case for their confused ramblings.


"...Oh, and BTW, if there can be a Hispanic Caucus, and a Black Caucus... ..."

Well, what about it? You might want to finish your thoughts before hitting the Send button. We're smart out here, in 75% land, but we're not mind-readers. Kindly finish expounding on the relevance of those groups to this discussion. FYI, groups such as these and La Raza arose in the 50's and 60's out of need for common defense against racist attitudes in this country that still exist to this day.


"...As I said, it is NOT amusing to hear RACISTS accusing others of racism, because WE don't like them being Racists!..."

This has to take the cake. Saint has a lock on the "Most Ironic Self-Condemnation Without Realizing It" statement award of the year.

Lord deliver us from fools, Amen!!!

===========================================

Posted by: osmor | July 13, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

When I observe the posturing of the Republicans, I ask, "Can you name one good thing that they have done for the country?"

The party is becoming more irrelevant with every day. Their only appeal is to a small, very disturbed minority in this nation.

Posted by: colonelpanic | July 13, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

.

=========================================

"...i know, its the sort of thing that makes you think the KKK wasnt such a cray idea after all..."

========================================


Is this some troll just baiting and goading out of some sick sense of humor, or is this really how some Americans in the 21st century think and believe?


Un-be-fookin-lievable

.

Posted by: osmor | July 13, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Succumbing to Saint's request for evidence of bias by "involved" GOP members, Senator Jeff Sessions (sound familiar?) was rejected in 1986 as the would-be Federal judge appt'd by then-President Reagan.

Do your own due diligence, Saint, and find out why he was rejected.

.

Posted by: osmor | July 13, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Let's face it, the senators just take the time to spout the stuff and then at the very end, ask a question. They don't really want to hear from her, they just love to "run the mouths." Do they honestly think that any of the populous - you know - we the people - see anything else. NOT...

Posted by: PalmSpringsGirl | July 13, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

"

Sessions sees his lilywhite world collapsing around him. He will embarrass himself and the GOP. It's time for him to join the 21st century.

Posted by: jckdoors | July 13, 2009 2:16 PM"

No, thank you. I'm in the 21st century, and I don't want him here. I'm content to have him stay in the [early] 19th century, his proper milieu.

Posted by: thrh | July 13, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

There is something I don't like about her. It doesn't matter how many cases she presided over, or that she is family oriented, we want someone that represents all individuals, not represent the run-of-the-mill view of any certain group of people. Too much micromanaging too, thinks she knows it all.

Posted by: bwcolq | July 13, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

bqcolq writes:
"There is something I don't like about her. It doesn't matter how many cases she presided over, or that she is family oriented, we want someone that represents all individuals, not represent the run-of-the-mill view of any certain group of people. Too much micromanaging too, thinks she knows it all."
-------------------------------------------

No-one represents "all individuals" (I am assuming that you aren't meaning "WASP males"). By what appears to be your definition, a person can only represent their own slice of America. This is where Pres. Obama's "empathy" comes into play. Empathy is where a person from one slice of America can understand where folks from other slices are coming from - and you are better off getting someone who is already used to empathetic living (like someone who has had to adjust to several cultures already).

I assume by "micromanaging", you mean her attention to detail where rules of evidence are concerned (as mentioned in a recent WaPo article). That's not micromanaging - micromanaging is where a person is unable to delegate authority, and doesn't let their staff do their job; and AFAIK there's absolutely no evidence of this being the case.

As for "knows it all" - her entire career has been one where she has looked for mentors and reassessed her abilities. That doesn't sound much like a "know-it-all" to me.

Posted by: iamweaver | July 13, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

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