The afternoon session of Day 1 kicked off with more opening
statements from Senators on the Judiciary Committee:

Senator Klobuchar (D-MN)
starts by reciting Sotomayor’s history to her…in case Sotomayor had forgotten that her mother saved all her money to buy her encyclopedias as a child. Klobuchar is clearly showing support for Sotomayor, but in an emotional way, not relevant to her judicial philosophy.

That said, I did enjoy Klobuchar’s reference to the history of women in the judiciary—all the things O’Connor and Ginsburg overcame to become judges—and how Sotomayor stands on her own accomplishments but also theirs. It was inspiring to me, as a woman in the law.

Then Klobuchar tells Sotomayor she’s interested in hearing what Sotomayor has to say about the 11th amendment, as well as more about her use of pragmatic thinking and understanding of the real world results that come from a decision. Glad to hear some real judicial concerns, but as it’s only opening statements, will have to wait for answers.

Also enjoyed Klobuchar’s statement: “A Supreme Court Justice must interpret the law without fear or favor.”

Sen Ted Kaufman (D-DE)
referenced the blogosphere!!! He referenced bloggers as being extremely important for the Senate as a source of public opinion and discussion regarding Sotomayor!  He may have also referenced traditional media, but that one didn’t tug on my heartstrings as much.

Kaufman mentions that Sotomayor will bring more federal judicial experience to the court than any other justice in 100 years—quite an achievement. He also says her record seems to reveal no biases, something many others disagree with.

He says that though the Supreme Court is not a representative body, but we focus on diversity in our other institutions because it better equips our institutions to understand the viewpoints the comprise our society. Diverse experience and background leads to the right outcome…“I believe a diverse Court will function better as well”

Senator Specter (D-PA)
calls her Hispanic…is this Politically Correct? I think she has to be Latina to be PC. The tension in the room feels painful—others in the room are aware of the mistake.

Like everyone this morning, Spector references Thurgood Marshall and O’Connor as first black and first female justices, respectively. I think that Sotomayor’s role as (potentially) the first Latina on the Court is important, but that’s not ALL she is. We want to look past race, then let’s look past race and look at her record and education, too.

Spector says he wants to ask her opinion on decided cases, but also on the cases the  court “decided not to decide” (the ones they did not grant certiorari on). His concern is that the number of cases decided is shrinking year by year, and he wants to know what happens when one Court of Appeals goes one way, another goes another way, and then the Supreme Court decides not to decide the issue. I look forward to her answers to these questions, when we actually get to the questions, that is.

Note: At this point, the author notes that if she were Sotomayor she would totally be tuning these people out…*shakes head* must maintain focus for the readers who don’t want to listen to each senator’s 10 minute speech!

More Spector:
Constitutional standards are slipping and sliding—Congress wants to know what they are so they can make legislation accordingly—He wants to know whether Sotomayor will use a rational basis standard or a congruence and proportionality standard.

Finally, Spector mentions that he’d like to see the Court televised. He gets a laugh out of the room when he recognizes that Souter would never have allowed it, saying the cameras would have to roll over his dead body before they’d get into the Court. Spector then says that if Sotomayor is confirmed, Souter won’t be around to block the cameras. He wants to know what Sotomayor thinks of televising the Court.

Senator Franken (D-MN)
is honored to be here in his first week of his term, and grateful for the warm welcome onto the judiciary committee

During his speech there is some kind of outburst—people are escorted out by police. Leahy chastises them, saying we’ll be courteous to all, especially the nominee Sotomayor, and then turns it back over to Franken.

Franken continues rambling generically…just when I think he’s going to finish and keep it short and sweet….oh, no, then instead of closing, he goes on to talk about how he’s the most junior member, but how that also means he was the most recent to take the oath of office—therefore he is acutely aware of his duties on this committee.

Franken goes on to discuss how he is not a lawyer, but neither are most people, and most people are affected by a decision—interesting point. But instead of leaving it at that, he then he says he hopes to “get a better idea of what the court is, what it does, what it is supposed to do” during this hearing. He may not be a lawyer, but I was operating under the impression that Senators generally have some kind of idea of how the three branches of government work. I wonder if Minnesota is questioning the election outcome yet again?

Franken says that he believes in judicial restraint, is against judicial activists, and thinks the court should not make policy by itself—surprising considering that only a moment ago, he didn’t appear to know the function of the Court.

When Franken is done however, we finally get the Introduction of the Nominee.
Leahy says he’s going to administer the oath of office…oops…the oath before the committee….looks like he thinks she’s going to be confirmed.

Schumer (D-NY) speaks generically for five minutes to introduce Sotomayor.
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also speaks generically for five minutes to introduce Sotomayor.

Finally—Sotomayor gets to talk.
First thing I notice about her is her fabulous New York accent.

She thanks her mother, who is moved almost to tears, you can tell she’s holding them in. It’s really pretty sweet, and I’m almost moved to tears.

Generally, Sotomayor is very calm and collected and is happy about “being part of a process that reflects the greatness of our Constitution and our nation”

I was thrilled with her speaking about judicial decisions coming from the law and not someone’s personal opinion or agenda—but overall, just a generic opening statement. The real excitement starts at 9:30 AM EST tomorrow. I’ll be watching!

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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.