Republican senators raised new questions Tuesday morning about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s work with a Puerto Rican legal advocacy group, citing its stance on abortion.
The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) argued against parental notification for minors seeking abortions, writing in a 1980 legal brief that “just as Dred Scott v. Sanford refused citizenship to Black people, these opinions strip the poor of meaningful citizenship under the fundamental law.”
President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee already faced questions for her role on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a closely watched, reverse-discrimination case involving the city of New Haven, Conn.
A half-dozen Democratic and Republican leaders sparred throughout the day Tuesday, turning the Senate floor into something of a preconfirmation hearing on Judge Sotomayor.
Republican senators - including ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Republican John Cornyn - questioned how close Judge Sotomayor had worked in crafting PRLDEF’s support for legalized abortion and opposition to the death penalty.
Democrats countered with speeches and a news conference intended to bolster Judge Sotomayor’s credential as an impartial jurist.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, suggested the attacks were more the work of outside groups than legitimate gripes.
“We get paid well, we have great staffs,” Mr. Leahy said. “Why don’t we forget either the right-wing or the left-wing groups. Forget those who want to raise money.”
The conservative Judicial Watch put together a lengthy analysis last week of PRLDEF’s work in the 1980s and Judge Sotomayor’s work with the group.
Judge Sotomayor’s liberal advocates, meanwhile, began circulating a National Public Radio interview critical of Mr. Sessions for being “racially hostile” and a “product of the Deep South.”
Mr. Sessions’ attempt to win a seat on the federal bench in 1986 was derailed by allegations of racism.
With three weeks to go before confirmation hearings start, critics have yet to find a claim likely to derail her nomination and their attempts have met with muted success
Judge Sotomayor resigned her membership in an elite all-women club Friday amid pressure from Republican senators. And charges that she was a racist for comments she made about a “wise Latina woman” making better decisions than a “white male” resulted in backpedalling by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Mr. Obama.
The case of the New Haven firefighters, however, may prove to be critics’ best chance for blocking her confirmation.
The Supreme Court is considering Ricci v. DeStefano, a case in which Judge Sotomayor concurred with a ruling that a dyslexic white firefighter was not the target of discrimination after his test results for a job promotion were thrown out by the city.