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Sessions wonders if Sotomayor is a Ginsburg-like activist judge

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WASHINGTON--Democratic senators praised Sonia Sotomayor as confirmation hearings on her Supreme Court nomination started Monday, though Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in his opening statement he had concerns over whether Sotomayor was an activist judge. He said Sotomayor may turn out to be like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who Sessions called " one of the most activist members of the Supreme Court in history."

Excerpt from Sessions:

So I think it's noteworthy that when asked about Judge
Sotomayor's now-famous statement that a wise Latina would come to a
better conclusion than others, President Obama, White House Press
Secretary Robert Gibbs and Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg declined to
defend the substance of those remarks. They each assumed the nominee
misspoke. But I don't think -- but the nominee did not misspeak. She
is on record as making this statement at least five times over the
course of a decade. I am providing a copy of the full text of those
speeches for the record.

Others will say that despite these statements, we should look to
a nominee's record, which they characterize as moderate. People said
the same of Justice Ginsburg, who is now considered to be one of the
most activist members of the Supreme Court in history.

So we've reached a fork in the road, I think, and there are stark
differences. I want to be clear. I will not vote for, and no senator
should vote for, an individual nominated by any president who is not
fully committed to fairness and impartiality toward every person who
appears before them. I will not vote for, and no senator should vote
for, an individual nominated by any president who believes it is
acceptable for a judge to allow their personal background, gender,
prejudices or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of or against
parties in -- before the court.

In my view, such a philosophy is disqualifying. Such an approach
to judging means that the umpire calling the game is not neutral, but
instead feels empowered to favor one team over another. Call it
empathy, call it prejudice or call it sympathy, but whatever it is,
it's not law. In truth, it's more akin to politics, and politics has
no place in the courtroom.

Some will respond Judge Sotomayor would never say it's acceptable
for a judge to display prejudice in a case. But I regret to say,
Judge, that some of your statements, that I'll outline, seem to say
that, clearly. Let's look at just a few examples. We've seen the
video of the Duke University panel where Judge Sotomayor says: It's
the Court of Appeals where policy is made. And I know, I know that
this is on tape and I should never say that and should not think that.

And during a speech 15 years ago, Judge Sotomayor said, quote, "I
willingly accept we who judge must not deny the difference resulting
from experience and heritage, but attempt continuously to judge when
those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate," close
quote. And in that same speech she said, quote, "My experiences will
affect the facts I choose to see."

Having tried a lot of cases, that particular phrase bothers me.
I expect every judge to see all the facts.

So I think it's noteworthy that when asked about Judge
Sotomayor's now-famous statement that a wise Latina would come to a
better conclusion than others, President Obama, White House Press
Secretary Robert Gibbs and Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg declined to
defend the substance of those remarks. They each assumed the nominee
misspoke. But I don't think -- but the nominee did not misspeak. She
is on record as making this statement at least five times over the
course of a decade. I am providing a copy of the full text of those
speeches for the record.

Others will say that despite these statements, we should look to
a nominee's record, which they characterize as moderate. People said
the same of Justice Ginsburg, who is now considered to be one of the
most activist members of the Supreme Court in history.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 13, 2009 10:03 AM.

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