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Key Excerpt: Graham Asks Sotomayor About Her Judicial Philosophy

CQ Transcriptions

GRAHAM: And that's what we're trying to figure out. Who are we getting here? You know, who are we getting as a nation?

Now, legal realism, are you familiar with that term?

SOTOMAYOR: I am.

GRAHAM: What does it mean for someone who may be watching the hearing?

SOTOMAYOR: To me, it means that you are guided in reaching decisions in law by the realism of the situation, of the -- it's less -- it looks at the law through the...

GRAHAM: Kind of touchy, feely stuff?

SOTOMAYOR: That's not quite words that I would use because there are many academics and judges who have talked about being legal realists, but I don't apply that label to myself at all.

As I said, I look at law and precedent and discern its principles and apply it to the situation...

GRAHAM: So you would not be a disciple of the legal realism school?

SOTOMAYOR: No.

GRAHAM: OK. All right.

Would you be considered a strict constructionist in your own mind?

SOTOMAYOR: I don't use labels to describe what I do. There's been much discussion today about what various labels mean and don't mean. Each person uses those labels and gives it their own sense of...

GRAHAM: When Judge Rehnquist says he was a strict constructionist, did you know what he was talking about?

I think I understood what he was referencing, but his use is not how I go about looking at...

GRAHAM: What does strict constructionism mean to you? SOTOMAYOR: Well, it means that you look at the Constitution as its written or statutes as they're written and you apply them exactly by the words.

GRAHAM: Right. Would you be an originalist?

SOTOMAYOR:
Again, I don't use labels. And because...
GRAHAM: What is an originalist?

SOTOMAYOR:
In my understanding, an originalist is someone who looks at what the founding fathers intended and what the situation confronting them was, and you use that to determine every situation presented -- not every but most situations presented by the Constitution.

GRAHAM:Do you believe the Constitution is a living, breathing, evolving document?

SOTOMAYOR: The Constitution is a document that is immutable to the sense that it's lasted 200 years. The Constitution has not changed except by amendment. It is a process -- an amendment process that is set forth in the document.

It doesn't live other than to be timeless by the expression of what it says. What changes is society. What changes is what facts a judge may get presented...

GRAHAM: What's the best way for society to change, generally speaking? What's the most legitimate way for a society to change?

SOTOMAYOR:
I don't know if I can use the words "change." Society changes because there's been new development in technology, medicine, in -- in society growing.

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

By washingtonpost.com  |  July 14, 2009; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Personal Comments & Experiences  
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