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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.

By Eva Rodriguez  | July 16, 2009; 6:07 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Why do you say that about her demeanor? The ABA witnesses spoke of interviewing 500 lawyers and judges, personally, and only 10 had negative comments. Lindsay Graham tried to make her into an ogre, and many, including myself, saw that as a sexist move. How about Scalia? Do you like his demeanor? Or Clarence Thomas, who picks his teeth, clips his nailes, and sleeps when lawyers are presenting their cases. Is that a good demeanor. A man's demeanor would never have been questioned.

Posted by: ecassel1 | July 16, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

We learned that she can hold on to her temper and not have a major melt down! We have also learned that she is indeed a wise Latina and didn't fall into any of the traps the Republicans so hoped she would.

Posted by: catmomtx | July 16, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

No comment re: comments by Srta. Eva Rodriguez, except Sonia smoked you wingers, hermana!

Posted by: dougharty | July 16, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

What I learned is that in America intellectual dishonesty is regarded as a cardinal virtue.

Posted by: patrick3 | July 17, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

So in other words, you're saying she is way smarter and less arrogant than Bork.

Doesn't sound too bad to me. Of course, all the right-wingers hoping for a slip-up to pounce upon are now woefully disappointed.

...In fact, Ms. Rodriguez, you _do_ sound a wee bit disappointed yourself.

Posted by: sembtex | July 17, 2009 4:15 AM | Report abuse

she is a 'Wise Latina'?

not Latino!

Posted by: sasha2008 | July 17, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

When I read the answer from Bork, I get the impression of an ego driven's all about ME and how Bork wants to be remembered. Conversely, Judge Sotomayor exhibits a real passion for the law and its effect on real people. Life experience DOES matter in one's perception. If it didn't, we wouldn't have conservatives and liberals coming to different conclusions.

Posted by: joy2 | July 17, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what you saw in those hearings, but I saw a "wise Latina" badgered by her social and mental inferiors.

Kudos, BTW, to Frank Ricci the firefighter. He came across as the kind of guy I'd want leading the effort to fight a fire in my neighborhood. Test or no test, I hope he gets promoted.

(Personal to Frank: If you're ever in or near Bradenton, Florida, look me up. I'll buy you a beer.)

Posted by: roblimo | July 17, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

"Of course, Bork’s nomination failed. Sotomayor is expected to be a shoo-in. Indeed, she played the game of confirmation politics brilliantly."
I take that as a complement.
She has shown herself to be a good judge, admired by the lawyers who practiced in her court. She has an interesting a great life story and experience, knows what it means to be poor and struggle. That will add balance to the court which it desperately needs, with the right wing corporate conservative idealogues who control it now.

Posted by: eadler2 | July 17, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Bork's response shows a self-image of "i'm just too smart, too bright, too good a judge that you should be impressed. Confidence is good but when one is applying for a job, one does not over talk about one's accomplishments and qualifications. Bork was borked. Sotomayor has a brilliant mind, she has perseverance and a humility that one gets after working very very very hard. She's tough when she grills the lawyers before and she should. they all have a job to do.

Posted by: mstratas | July 17, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

What Do We Know Now About Sotomayor?

That she was in the right place at the right time with the right gender and the right ethnicity.

she was picked not becuase she is smart etc, but soley because she is a woman and hispanic. This was pure politics and correctness at its worst.

i hope that justice gets back to being blind after decades of too clear a vision!

Posted by: jrzshor | July 17, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

We learn that "Justice Sotomayor, can hold her peace while she is being constantly 'ATTACKED', by a 'GANG', of RACIST OLD WHITE GUYS.

If she were any places outside of that Hearing room, she could 'FILE CHARGES' for "AGGRAVATED ASSAULT".

Those Republican Senators would be what they consider "FIRST CLASS THUGS."

Posted by: austininc4 | July 17, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

i invite tou to the movement of the light

Posted by: firstsource | July 19, 2009 5:22 AM | Report abuse

I disagree that she was attacked by a gang of racist old white guys. The questions were legitimate and the responses acceptable. One should be seriously concerned about the next nominee. That one will be a really left wing, constitution changing activist. Stand by.

Posted by: davidhaag7 | July 20, 2009 5:41 AM | Report abuse

I think that indeed she has exceed as a judge and she has master the art of court room, however, she has yet to be tested. She has a great portfolio but can she be fair or unbias? time, rulings and cases will tell?

Posted by: Rodrigol12 | July 20, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

She like Barry O is an EEO baby as she readily admits. I would just like the country to know how she got into the schools she attended and she was given the grades she got. I'll bet she didn't earn them. She got them for being a "Latina." If the Dems are so shot in the arm for a Spanish speaking judge, what happened to Miguel Estrada? This country is going to pay for the fours years of BO. Just remember Jimmy from Georga!

Posted by: rustynailx | July 20, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

All they had was one dumb thing she said eleven years ago? How lame...
We need some justices to take the court back. These current clowns in the majority would have shot down "Brown vs Board of Education", especially Clarence what's his name. It's time the country moved beyond the haters club called The Republican Party.

Posted by: benmadrid | July 20, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor offered platitudes? Please, I thought her answer was heartfelt--a passion to be a lawyer and a judge, and the importance of justice in society. For Ms. Rodriquez to suggest this only confirms her partisan bias. As for Robert Bork and his confirmation, his defeat was because he renounced many of early law articles as the enthusiasm of youth--Bork opposed almost all of the major decisions concerning civil rights. When he was not confirmed, he admitted that he had "renounced" his views only to gain confirmation, and his comments were really what he felt. Recently Bork called the present Supreme Court "very liberal." We can all thank our stars that he was rejected by both Democrats and Republicans.

Posted by: patrue | July 21, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

"Attacked by a gang of racist old white guys" LOL. Im white and male and that is obviously a bad, bad, bad thing. Who know about this lady. I kinda liked her and her responses. Hopefully she will be a wise and thoughtful judge. I truely hope she will, as she professes, put the law above her personal bias. In her answers I envisioned the lady with the blindfold and scales. I like her!

Posted by: georgeerrn | July 22, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Politics as usual. Nothing but a platform for senators to preen, pose and proselytize for their constituents.

Posted by: Utahreb | July 23, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Bork said a lot more, and it sunk him. Especially the "natural law" BS, which made it obvious that he thought the Constitution could be seen through his own cockeyed lens.

At least he was defeated. Sadly, we got a potted plant (Thomas) on the court later. The sex scandal was the best thing that ever happened to him--it took up so much of the hearing that no one ever got to figure out he wasn't qualified.

Posted by: Howdeb | July 23, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

What do we know about you Eva? What did we know about George Bush? Clarence Thomas? Dick Cheney?

I like her - Obama likes her - the catholic league likes her - everyone likes her except some right wingers who are afraid she may expose them as a bunch of slam artists.

And she's smart and competent.

Posted by: agapn9 | July 23, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

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