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Key Excerpt: Feingold and Sotomayor on Second Amendment Rights

CQ Transcriptions

FEINGOLD: The question of whether the Second Amendment rights are incorporated in the 14th Amendment's guarantee of due process of law and, therefore, applicable to the states, as you pointed out, was not decided in Heller. And a Supreme Court decision in 1886 specifically held that the Second Amendment applies only to the federal government.

So, in my view, it is unremarkable that as a circuit court judge in the Maloney case you would follow applicable Supreme Court precedent that directly controlled the case rather than apply your own guess of where the court may be headed after Heller. In other words, I think that's -- would be an unfair criticism of a case that I think you needed to rule that way given the state of the law.

But let me move on that from because many of my constituents would like to know more about how you would make such a decision as a member of the highest courts. So I want to follow up on that.

First of all, am I right that if you're confirmed and the court grants cert in the Maloney case, you would have to recuse yourself from its consideration?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes, sir. My own judgment is that it would seem odd, indeed, if any justice would sit in review of a decision that they authored. I would think that the judicial code of ethics that govern recusals would suggest and command that that would be inappropriate.

FEINGOLD: Fair enough. What about if one of the other pending appeals comes to the Court such as the Seventh Circuit decision in NRA v. Chicago which took the same position as your position in Maloney, would you have to recuse yourself from that one as well?

SOTOMAYOR: There are many cases in which a justice, I understand, has decided cases as a circuit court judge that are not the subject of review that raise issues that the Supreme Court looks at later. What I would do in this situation, I would look at the practices of the justices to determine whether or not that would counsel to recuse myself.

I would just note that many legal issues, once they come before the Court, present a different series of questions than one addresses at the circuit court.

FEINGOLD: Well, let's assume you were able to sit to one of these cases or a future case that deals with this issue of incorporating the right to bear arms as applied to the states. How would you assess whether the Second Amendment or any other amendment that has not yet been incorporated through the 14th Amendment should be made applicable to the states? What's the test that the Supreme Court should apply?

SOTOMAYOR:
That's always the issue that litigants are arguing in litigation. So to the extent that the Supreme Court has not addressed this question yet and there's a strong likelihood it may in the future, I can't say to you that I've prejudged the case and decided this is exactly how I'm going to approach it.

Read the entire exchange between Sen. Feingold and Judge Sotomayor. Read more about Second Amendment rights.

By washingtonpost.com  |  July 14, 2009; 3:10 PM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topic: Second Amendment Rights  
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