- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor vowed “fidelity to the law” and said she has not advocated for policy since becoming a judge 17 years ago, gently addressing critics on the first day of Senate hearings that produced no fireworks, and even the prospect of Republican support.

Judge Sotomayor, whos been mainly silent since becoming first Hispanic nominated to the high court, used her brief opening statement to address Republican questions about her impartiality and charges that she would legislate from the bench.

“In the past month, many senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law,” Judge Sotomayor told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The task of a judge is not to make the law - it is to apply the law. And it is clear, I believe, that my record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms; interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court.”

Judge Sotomayor also responded to critics who said her work for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund revealed her prejudices.

“My career as an advocate ended - and my career as a judge began when I was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York,” said Judge Sotomayor, whom President Obama nominated in late May.

Republican senators, who are outnumbered 12-7 on the committee, focused much of their opening statements on Judge Sotomayor’s remarks that a “wise Latina woman” would make better judgments than a “white male,” saying they could not vote for a nominee who could not be impartial on the bench.

“If I had said anything remotely like that, my career would have been over. That’s true of most people here. And you need to understand that, and I look forward to talking with you about that comment,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told Judge Sotomayor.

Still, Mr. Graham said he was resigned to the political reality that the Democratic caucus controls 60 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

“Unless you have a complete meltdown, you’re going to be confirmed,” he said.

Monday’s session was reserved for opening statements from Judge Sotomayor and members of the committee. She will begin to face questions Tuesday.

The Capitol Hill hearing was interrupted several times by protesters, including a man who shouted shortly before the proceedings began: “What about the rights of the unborn?” Judge Sotomayors stance on the issue is unclear. She has ruled in favor of pro-life stances in at least two cases.

Judge Sotomayor “will be confirmed,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont told reporters after Mr. Graham’s comment.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, rebutted critics who say that Judge Sotomayor would be a judicial activist. He said conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was hardly the umpire he said he would be during his 2005 confirmation hearings.

“Many can debate whether his four years on the Supreme Court he actually called pitches as they come or whether he tried to change the rules,” Mr. Schumer said.

Story Continues →