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Key Excerpt: Feingold and Sotomayor on Empathy

CQ Transcriptions

FEINGOLD: Judge, your background is remarkable. As you explained yesterday, your parents came to New York from Puerto Rico during World War II. And after your father died, your mother raised you on her own in a housing project in the South Bronx. You are a lifelong New Yorker and a Yankee fan, as I understand it. But many Americans don't live in big cities. Many of my constituents live in rural areas and small towns, and they root for the Brewers and the Packers.

Now, some might think that you don't have a lot in common with them. What can you tell me about your ability as a judge to empathize with them, to understand the everyday challenges of rural and small- town America and how Supreme Court decisions might affect their lives?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes, I live in New York City, and it is a little different than other parts of the country. But I spend a lot of time in other parts of the country. I've visited a lot of states. I've stayed with people who do all types of work. I've lived on -- not lived -- I've visited and vacationed on farms. I've lived and vacationed in mountaintops. I've lived and vacationed in all sorts -- not lived. I'm using the wrong word.

I've visited all sorts of places. In fact, one of my habits is when I travel somewhere new, I try to find a friend I know to stay with them. And it's often not because I can't afford a hotel. Usually, the people who are inviting me would be willing to pay. But it's because I do think it's important to know more than what I live and to try to stay connected to people and to different experiences. I don't think that one needs to live an experience without appreciating it, listen to it, watching it, reading about it. All of those things -- experiencing it for a period of time -- help judges in appreciating the concerns of other experiences that they don't personally have.

And as I said, I try very, very hard to ensure that, in my life, I introduce as much experience with other people's lives as I can.

Read the entire exchange between Sen. Feingold and Judge Sotomayor. Read more about Sotomayor's personal comments and experiences.

By  |  July 14, 2009; 3:42 PM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Personal Comments & Experiences  
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