What Do We Know Now About Sotomayor?
By Eva Rodriguez
So, after all those hours and hours of testimony, what did we learn about Sonia Sotomayor?
We got a sense that the Supreme Court nominee is fluent in constitutional case law. When asked about her views on everything from the Second Amendment to abortion and civil rights, she masterfully -- and frustratingly -- "answered" by summarizing what the Supreme Court had done in previous cases.
We also got a glimpse of her demeanor. Though, this week, the goal of getting through without making a fatal mistake or knocking a senator’s nose out of joint obviously outweighed the goal of trying to persuade anyone to her way of thinking. I have a hard time believing that the disappointingly deferential persona she exhibited will be on display if and when she ascends the high court's marble steps and starts grilling lawyers and debating her colleagues. I expect she'll very much hold her own. And many of those who have worked with her before would agree.
At the end of the day (or, more accurately, four days), it might be fair to say that we learned more about Sotomayor’s mother than the nominee. When Sen. Al Franken asked “Why do you want to be a Supreme Court justice,” she replied with an anecdote about her mother and then offered platitudes:
Given who I am, my love of the law, my sense of importance about the rule of law, how central it is to the functioning of our society, how it sets us apart, as many senators have noted, from the rest of the world, have always created a passion in me, and that passion led me to want to be a -- a lawyer first and now to be a judge, because I can't think of any greater service that I can give to the country than to be permitted the privilege of being a justice of the Supreme Court.
Compare that to Robert Bork’s response to the same question, which spoke volumes about how he thought of himself:
I guess the answer to that is that I have spent my life in the intellectual pursuits in the law. And since I've been a judge, I particularly like the courtroom. I like the courtroom as an advocate and I like the courtroom as a judge. And I enjoy the give-and-take and the intellectual effort involved. It is just a life and that's of course the Court that has the most interesting cases and issues and I think it would be an intellectual feast just to be there and to read the briefs and discuss things with counsel and discuss things with my colleagues. That's the first answer.
The second answer is, I would like to leave a reputation as a judge who understood constitutional governance and contributed his bit to maintaining it in the ways I have described before this committee. Our constitutional structure is the most important thing this nation has and I would like to help maintain it and to be remembered for that.
Of course, Bork’s nomination failed. Sotomayor is expected to be a shoo-in. Indeed, she played the game of confirmation politics brilliantly.
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