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Sotomayor Speaks to the Senate

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By Kevin Fayle on July 13, 2009 12:45 PM

Judge Sonia Sotomayor made her opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee just moments ago, but her statements were not particularly didactic regarding her judicial philosophy.

That's sort of the point, though, since it would be foolish to give the members of the Judiciary Committee any ammunition they could use against her during the questioning that will commence tomorrow.

Sotomayor's comments were brief, and followed ten minutes of introductions by Senators Chuck Schumer (who teared up at one point during his remarks) and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats from New York.  The Judge's comments were both shorter and less detailed than her introductions.  Sotomayor first described her upbringing and early years in the Bronx, and took the time to thank her mother, turning to where she was seated in the first row.
Sotomayor attributed her "uniquely American story" to her mother, saying that her mother instilled in her the idea, early on, that "the key to success in America is a good education."  Sotomayor then listed her educational background, early career highlights, and some stats from her time on the bench, as both a district and circuit court judge.

The most interesting moment in her statement came when she listed her judicial philosophy.  Predictably, Sotomayor said that her philosophy was simple: "fidelity to the law."  Any Supreme Court nominee would (and has) said the same, so Sotomayor's obligatory recitation of the apply-the-law-not-make-the-law mantra didn't reveal much.

The only thing even moderately substantive to come out of her opening remarks was her pledge to interpret statutes according to their terms and the intent of Congress.  This is significant because it separates her from the textualist wing of the Court, as exemplified by Justices Scalia and Thomas. 

But that was already pretty obvious, so the statement might have just been a way to butter up the senators she was addressing by appealing to their pride in their legislative intent.

Overall, Sotomayor's statement was remarkably brief and uninformative.  But that's the point, after all, so in that sense, it was a smashing success.

See Also:
Lunchtime Report on the Sotomayor Hearings (Courtside)

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