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Key Excerpt: Klobuchar and Sotomayor on Judicial Activism

Courtesy of CQ Transcriptions

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SEN. KLOBUCHAR: You were quoted in the New York Times a while back about your time there, and you said, "The one thing I have found is that, if you come into the criminal justice system on a prosecutorial or defense level thinking that you can change the ills of society, you're going to be sorely disappointed. This is not where those kinds of changes have to be made." Do you want to elaborate on that a little bit?

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: By the time a criminal defendant ends up in court, they've been shaped by their lives. If you want to give people the best opportunity at success at life -- it's a message I deliver frequently to my community -- it has to be through early childhood forward. If you're waiting to do that once they're before a judge in court, your chances of success have diminished dramatically. And so one of my messages in many of my speeches to my community groups is pay attention to education. It's the value mom taught me, but her lesson had -- was not lost on me when I became a prosecutor.

And it's a lesson that I continue to promote because I so fervently believe it. The success of our communities depends on us improving the quality of our education of our children and of parental participation in ensuring that that happens in our society.

KLOBUCHAR: It also reminded me of that comment about -- some of the comments you've made about the limited role that -- a prosecutor has one role, and the limited role that a judge may have to respect that judicial role of not making the laws but interpreting the laws. Would that be a correct summary?

SOTOMAYOR: That is. In the statement I made to the newspaper article, I was focusing on a different part of that, but it is. As a prosecutor, my role was not to look at what I though the punishment should have been, because that was set in law. Sentences are set by Congress, which -- within statutory ranges.

And my role was to prosecute on behalf of the people of the State of New York. And that role is different than one that I would do if I were a defense attorney whose charge is to do something else, to ensure that a defendant is given a fair trial and that the government has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

But we cannot remedy the ills of society in a courtroom. We can only apply the law to the facts before us.

Continue Reading the exchange between Sen. Klobuchar and Judge Sotomayor here.

By Washington Post editors  |  July 15, 2009; 12:07 PM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Judicial Activism  
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