Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor responded to her critics publicly for the first time Monday, saying her judicial philosophy is “fidelity to the law” and saying her “career as an advocated ended” when she became a judge in 1992.
From her nomination by President Barack Obama in late May through today’s hearing, the task of defending Judge Sotomayor has largely fallen on Democratic senators and the White House.
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?” About an hour later, U.S. Capitol Police removed a second protester, a younger man with his hair in a ponytail who shouted: “Abortion is murder, abortion is murder, abortion is murder.”
The proceedings were interrupted two more times after the lunch recess. “You’re wrong Sotomayor, you’re wrong about abortion,” a protester said before exiting the Hart Senate Office Building room. A fourth protester shouted an indiscernible phrase shortly before Judge Sotomayor testified.
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Judge Sotomayor’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday afternoon marked the first time she directly responded to critiques that she let gender and ethnicity influence her decisions.
“In the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law,” Judge Sotomayor said. “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 Congresss intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court.”
• Text of Sotomayor’s opening statement
The testimony marks the first time Judge Sotomayor has publicly addressed her critics since being nominated to the court by Mr. Obama. For the last month much of the debate has been limited to Judge Sotomayor’s speeches and bits of privae conversations senators talked about.
Republican senators, who are outnumbered 7-12 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 of the Democrat caucus controlling 60 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
“Unless you have a complete meltdown, you’re going to be confirmed,” he said.
Democrat and Republican lawmakers largely staked out the same positions on Judge Sotomayor they had developed in the month and a half since her nominations as the confirmation hearing continued Monday afternoon.
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,” she said.