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Key Excerpt: Durbin and Sotomayor on the Death Penalty

CQ Transcriptions

DURBIN: Judge Sotomayor, I know that you've thought about this issue. Senator Graham made reference to the Puerto Rican Legal Defence Education Fund memo that you once signed on the subject. What is your thought about Justice Blackmun's view that, despite our best legal efforts, the imposition of the death penalty in the United States has not been handled fairly.

SOTOMAYOR: With respect to the position the fund took in 1980-81 with respect to the death penalty, that was, as I noted, a question of being an advocate and expressing views on behalf of a community on a policy choice New York State was making: Should we, or should we not reinstitute the death penalty? As a judge, what I have, and look at and realize is, that in 30 years, or 40, actually, there has been -- excuse me, Senator. Oh, I'm sorry.

DURBIN: It's all right.

SOTOMAYOR: ... enormous changes in our society, many, many cases looked at by the Supreme Court addressing the application of the death penalty, addressing issues of its application and when they're constitutional or not. The state of this question is different today than it was when Justice Blackmun came to his views.

As a judge, I don't rule in an abstract. I rule in the context of a case that comes before me and a challenge to a situation and an application of the death penalty that arises from an individual case.

I've been and am very cautious about expressing personal views since I've been a judge. I find that people who listen to judges express their personal views on important questions that the courts are looking at, that they have a sense that the judge is coming into the process with a closed mind, that their personal views will somehow influence how they apply the law.

That's one of the reasons why, since I've been a judge, I've always been very careful about not doing that. And I think my record speaks more loudly than I can...

DURBIN: It does.

SOTOMAYOR: ... about the fact of how careful I am about ensuring that I'm always following the law and not my personal views.

Read the entire exchange between Sen. Durbin and Judge Sotomayor. Read more about Sotomayor and the death penalty.

By  |  July 14, 2009; 6:16 PM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Death Penalty  
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