Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Al Franken stumps Sotomayor over "Perry Mason" episode



WASHINGTON--Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Mn.) asked Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor about influences on her career as a prosecutor. Sotomayor talked about television's Perry Mason in reply. Later, Sen. Al Franken (D-Mn.) (have to get used to calling him senator) also asks her about Perry Mason episodes, wondering if she could name the one episode where Mason, a defense lawyer, lost the case.

Sotomayor is stumped.

"Didn't the White House prepare you for that," said Franken, the comedian now senator who if he took a pledge not to be funny broke it several times at the Wednesday hearing, his first as a senator.

Franken had to confess he did not know either. (Usually one never asks a question like this without knowing the answer.) A few minutes later, Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman assigned to the Sotomayor hearings, e-mailed that it was "The Case of the Deadly Verdict," broadcast on Oct. 17, 1963. Here's a clip:

And here is Sotomayor's riff about Mason, in reply to Kloubchar:

Sotomayor: I was influenced so greatly by a television
show in igniting the passion that I had as being a prosecutor, and it
was "Perry Mason." For the young people behind all of you --
- you may not even know who Perry Mason was. But Perry
Mason was one of the first lawyers portrayed on television, and his
story line is that in all of the cases he tried, except one, he proved
his client innocent and got the actual murderer to confess.

In one of the episodes, at the end of the episode, Perry Mason,
with the character who played the prosecutor in the case, were meeting
up after the case, and Perry said to the prosecutor: It must cause
you some pain, having expended all that effort in your case, to have
the charges dismissed.

And the prosecutor looked up and said: No, my job as a
prosecutor is to do justice, and justice is served when a guilty man
is convicted and when an innocent man is not.

And I thought to myself: That's quite amazing, to be able to
serve that role; to be given a job, as I was by Mr. Morgenthau, a job
I'm eternally grateful to him for, in which I could do what justice
required in an individual case.

And it was not without bounds, because I served a role for
society, and that role was to ensure that the public safety and public
interest were fully represented. But prosecutors in each individual
case, at least in my experience, particularly under the tutelage of
Mr. Morgenthau, was, we did what the law required within the bounds of understanding that our job was not to play to the home crowd, not to
look for public approval, but to look at each case -- in some
respects, like a judge does -- individually.


That sounds as deep to me as the things that Sarah Palin has had to say.

It reminds me of the time during a debate with Reagan when Carter mentioned dicussing nuclear war with his then young daughter Amy. He received a lot of grief for that. Is anybody going to do the same for Sotomayor?

(What, no influence from a more cerebral TV show such as The Defenders?)

I hope that someday, Franken reprises his cockroach routine in the Senate. Perhaps he can use them to symbolize the economy or the evil empires etc.

The Repubs are not trying to impartially examine as to qualifications, but hanging onto a statement, taken out of context, in a blatantly biased manner trying to label the nominee a sort of racist.

Of course, it is elemental -- and even Lindsay Graham knows it -- that we all are influenced by our background when we make decisions, legal and otherwise.

As Justice Scalia said, his Italian/Catholic background would have an influence on his decisions. And they do. Hence, his anti-abortion rulings.

Does anyone think he makes his rulings solely based on the Constitution? Of course not. Obviously, there is no constitutional prohibition against abortion, otherwise why would Georgie, the Destroyer,would not have spoken of the need for one.

So why don't the Repubs cut the bullshit. This nominee was nominated by a Republican President to be a federal judge, nominated by a Democratic President to be on the Circuit Court of Appeals and confirmed.

She has in her 17 years as a Federal Judge been guided by the Law. Is she suddenly going to stop now that she's about to become a Justice of the Supreme Court? Does that question even deserve an answer?

Get on with it!!

What? Hope the people of MN are happy for what they voted for because I am completely appalled and embarrassed!

Too bad she got that one wrong. If you watch the ENTIRE episode, you see that he does get his client off after proving someone else did it.

Although technically that may have been the only case he lost in court, in the end he wound up winning it.

Ms. Sweet, your video clip does not work properly. At least for me.

Okay, I love the Perry Mason show as much as the next person who had dream like inspirations to become a lawyer. But this should not been brought up by Judge Sotomayor or elaborated on by Senator Franken most definitely. Maybe Franken is just happy to be there, like another guy that shall remain nameless.

Anyway, is this an insight into the fact she recently had ONE case over-ruled for the plaintiffs she was the judge on?

Also, why are a bunch of self-righteous firemen from New Haven, Connecticut going to be allowed into the Supreme Court nomination hearings? There is a smugness of testosterone that will fill the room bellowing "WE WON!" even if they don't say one word.

As a Black American, I definitely would find another line of work if I had to be in a fire station with these guys on a daily basis. I simply wouldn't trust them to have my back if running into a burning building.

You take your victory and don't gloat! These are reasons why other nations do not like us. We wallow in our democracy in contrast to other nations, than behave as though we are just showing pride. Okay, keep thinking that and watch our economy continue to tank and other nations laugh at our ineptness because of our dependency on their resources.

They are showing pride as well. Remember that the next time CNN show someone screaming "Down with America!"

Hi. You have to recognize when the right place and the right time fuse and take advantage of that opportunity. There are plenty of opportunities out there. You can't sit back and wait.
I am from Britain and also now teach English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: " In a common chimpanzee, rather between four and eight animals think in example."

Thank you very much :-). Mansi.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets


Lynn Sweet

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

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 15, 2009 1:59 PM.

Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss and Union Station to play Obama White House was the previous entry in this blog.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, July 15, 2009. NAACP, Fund-raisers is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.