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President Barack Obama with Judge Sonia Sotomayor prior to an announcement in the East Room, May 26, 2009.

On May 26, 2009, President of the United States Barack Obama announced his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, to replace retiring Justice David Souter. Sotomayor's nomination was formally submitted to the United States Senate on June 1, 2009, when the 111th Congress reconvened after its Memorial Day recess. Sotomayor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 6, 2009 by a 68-31 vote and was commissioned by President Obama the same day. She was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts on August 8, 2009.

When nominated, Sotomayor was a sitting judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to which she had been appointed by Bill Clinton. She had previously served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, to which she was appointed by George H. W. Bush.

Contents

Speculation regarding the nomination of Sotomayor

Nomination to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Prior to her reported selection as President Obama's nominee, Sotomayor had been appointed as a judge by both Republican and Democratic presidents.[1][2] In July 2005, a number of Senate Democrats suggested Sotomayor, among others, to President George W. Bush as a nominee acceptable to them to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The seat was eventually filled by Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. of the Third Circuit.

Since Barack Obama's election, there had been speculation that Sotomayor could be a leading candidate for the Supreme Court seat of Justice David Souter, or for any opening on the Court during Obama's term.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] On April 9, 2009, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote a joint letter to President Obama urging him to appoint Sotomayor, or alternatively Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, to the Supreme Court if a vacancy should arise on the Court during his term.[8] On April 30, 2009, David Souter's retirement plans were leaked to the media, and Sonia Sotomayor received early attention as a possible nominee for the seat to be vacated in June 2009.[7] On May 13, 2009, the Associated Press reported that President Obama was considering Sotomayor, among others, for possible appointment to the United States Supreme Court. [9] On May 26, 2009, Obama announced that he would nominate Sotomayor to the court,[10] with her formal nomination following on June 1. After her confirmation, Sotomayor became the Supreme Court's first Latina justice.[8][11][12][13]

Senate response

The United States Senate had to confirm the nomination for Sotomayor to join the Supreme Court. As of July 2009, the Senate has 58 Democrats, 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 40 Republicans. In order to block the nomination, Republicans must have either voted unanimously against Sotomayor and persuade eleven non-Republican Senators to follow suit, or they must have prevented a vote from taking place at all through a filibuster, which means the Democrats would have need 60 senators to vote for cloture.

Before the Senate vote took place, Sotomayor was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 28, 2009[14], which then voted out a recommendation to the full Senate.

Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee

Chairman Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont said he expected Sotomayor to be in the "mold of Justice Souter, who understands the real-world impact of the Court's decisions, rather than the mold of conservative activists who second-guess Congress."[15]

Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said, "Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court."[15]

Russ Feingold of Wisconsin said that "from all accounts, she is a highly qualified and very experienced judge."[16]

Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee

Orrin Hatch of Utah said he "will focus on determining whether Judge Sotomayor is committed to deciding cases based only on the law as made by the people and their elected representatives, not on personal feelings or politics. I look forward to a fair and thorough process."[17]

John Cornyn of Texas said Sotomayor must "prove her commitment to impartially deciding cases based on the law, rather than based on her own personal politics, feelings, and preferences."[16]

On June 10, 2009, all seven Republican members of the Judiciary committee (Tom Coburn, John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham, Jon Kyl, Charles E. Grassley, Orrin G. Hatch, and Jeff Sessions) by letter sent a detailed four page request that Sotomayor amend, supplement and expand upon the materials and answers supplied in response to the committee's original questionnaire for the candidate.[18 ] [19][20 ]

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina announced that he would vote in favor of Sotomayor, while Jon Kyl of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas, [21][22] Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Chuck Grassley of Iowa announced that they would vote against her.

Other Democratic Senators

Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts said, "I strongly support President Obama's historic nomination. Judge Sotomayor's remarkable life story is an inspiring example of the American dream, and she has a highly distinguished legal background. She'll bring intelligence, insight, and experience to the vital work of protecting the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans. She is eminently qualified for the Supreme Court, and I look forward to her prompt confirmation by the Senate."[23]

No Democratic Senator had announced that they would oppose Sotomayor's nomination.

Other Republican Senators

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said "Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly, but we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences."[24]

Olympia Snowe of Maine said of the nomination, "I commend President Obama for nominating a well-qualified woman, as I urged him to do during a one-on-one meeting on a variety of issues in the Oval Office earlier this month".[25]

Pat Roberts of Kansas was the first Senator to officially come out against the nomination: "With all due respect to the nominee and nothing personal, I do not plan to vote for her. I did not feel she was appropriate on the appeals court. Since that time, she has made statements on the role of the appeals court I think is improper and incorrect."[26]. Seven other non-Judiciary Committee Republicans announced that they would oppose her nomination: Bob Bennett of Utah[27], Sam Brownback of Kansas[28], Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky[29][30], Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi[31][32], James Inhofe of Oklahoma[33] John Thune of South Dakota[34], and Mike Johanns of Nebraska.[35]

Nine non-Judiciary Committee Republican Senators announced that they would vote in favor of Sotomayor's confirmation: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine[36][37], Richard Lugar of Indiana[38], Mel Martinez of Florida.[39], and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.[40]

Confirmation hearings

President Obama indicated that he would like to see Sotomayor confirmed by the beginning of the Senate recess on August 7, 2009. [41 ] On June 9, 2009, Patrick Leahy announced that Judiciary Committee hearings on Sotomayor's nomination would begin on Monday, July 13, 2009.

Day 1 (Jul. 13)

Sotomayor before the Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee convened for the first day of Confirmation hearings on July 13, where Senator Charles Schumer proclaimed that the opportunity that Sotomayor has could not have happened "anywhere else in the world", saying that America is "God's noble experiement". [42] Out the many notable speakers, the Committee also welcomed newly sworn in Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who marked his first Judiciary hearing on the committee since he was sworn in five days earlier. Two senators' statements were disrupted by hecklers. An unidentified man hollered, "What about the unborn?" during Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) speech.[43] Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case about abortion rights, and Francis Mahoney, both yelled during Franken's opening statement.[44] McCorvey and Mahoney were arrested, along with Robert James and Andrew Beacham. Leahy warned spectators to behave themselves and not to express any outbursts for or against Sotomayor or senators.[43]

While committee Democrats generally praised Sotomayor, Republicans expressed skepticism about Sotomayor's ability to be judicially impartial. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) brought up Sotomayor's membership in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund as concern over Sotomayor's decision in the district court case Ricci v. DeStefano. In that case, a three-judge panel that included Sotomayor ruled that a promotion test for firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut was discriminatory and thus void.[45] A few weeks prior to the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

Sotomayor began to speak at 2:54pm EST and thanked the 87 senators she "has the pleasure" of meeting and her family, including her mother, who joined her in the hearing. Sotomayor also said she was "very humbled" to be nominated, noting also she had seen the American judiciary system from many different perspectives. During her speech, she commented that "The task of a judge is not to make the law, it is to apply the law".[45] Alexander Bolton of The Hill attributed such a pledge to George W. Bush-nominated Justices John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito. During her speech, Sotomayor also narrated her life story from her high school years while she lived in the projects, praising her mother: "She set the example, studying alongside my brother and me at our kitchen table so that she could become a registered nurse."[45]

Day 2 (Jul. 14)

On July 14, 2009, the first round of questioning began. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) began the session, and largely focused on Sotomayor's judicial record. The nominee took the opportunity to explain her ideals, and described herself as impartial and deferential to precedent, noting "It's important to remember that, as a job, I don't make law." Leahy then concentrated on the "Tarzan burglar" case, which Sotomayor prosecuted as assistant district attorney in Manhattan during the early 1980s. Sotomayor tied a series of incidents together and persuaded the trial judge to let her try the burglar on a number of crimes in one case. Leahy also gave Sotomayor the opportunity to explain her ruling in the Ricci v. New Haven case, which the Supreme Court overturned after a ruling by a panel of which she was a member. Sotomayor stated that the ruling was based on precedent, and that it would have come out differently in light of the standard subsequently established by the Supreme Court on appeal.[46]

Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions (R-AL) then began questioning, and notably referenced her "wise Latina" remark. Sotomayor stated that it was "meant to inspire" young people of Latino ancestry, and that she "was trying to play on Sandra Day O'Connor's words. My play fell flat. It was bad."[47]

Sotomayor was then questioned by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), who questioned her stance on abortion. She responded by noting that "there is a right to privacy," and that Roe v. Wade is "settled law."[47] Kohl also inquired about her stance on the Bush v. Gore case, which stopped the recount during the 2000 election.

In regards to her comments about her personal experiences and sympathies when interpreting the Constitution, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) questioned her ability to rule on issues such as the second amendment. Sotomayor answered by stating that she has ruled in favor of the second amendment, and that she personally has friends who use guns for hunting.[48]

Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 14, 2009.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) next highlighted key experience points that she had assessed over her sixteen years on the committee. Feinstein then argued against claims that Sotomayor was an "activist judge", referencing the Ricci v. New Haven case, in stating that conservative members of the Supreme Court have been the real activists in "discarding judicial precedents in recent years."[49]

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) again questioned his interpretation that her statements meant she was ruling by her feelings or experiences rather than by law, by stating that the "job (of Supreme Court Justice) is not to impose their own personal opinions of right and wrong." Sotomayor assured him that she did not. During one of Sotomayor's answers to Grassley, a protester notably erupted, shouting anti-abortion statements that accused Sotomayor of being a "baby killer" and to "save the babies." Grassley then joked that "people always say I have the ability to turn people on," after the heckler had been taken out of the room and arrested by police.[50]

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) then questioned her on "post-9/11 policies," as well as her opinions on such cases as the Court's decisions in Rasul, Hamdi, Hamdan and Boumediene. Sotomayor responded that “the events of that day […] were sometimes used to justify policies that depart so far from what America stands for” and that "A judge should never rule from fear."[51]

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) once again raised the point of judging based on personal feelings or experiences by noting President Barack Obama's comment that judges rulings may be influenced by what's in their hearts. Sotomayor responded by saying that "[she] wouldn't approach the issue of judging in the way the president does." It was the first time that Sotomayor publicly attempted to distance herself from the president. Kyl also again referenced her "wise Latina" quote, and she again stated that it was meant to inspire young Latino students. Sotomayor also made clear that "if you look at my history on the bench, you will know that I do not believe that any ethnic, gender or race group has an advantage in sound judging." Senator Leahy defended Sotomayor in the face of ridicule by Senator Kyl.[52]

In asking if Sotomayor felt sympathy for victims in cases that she had ruled on—specifically a case involving a TWA airliner which exploded off the coast of New York, in which the families of the victims, many poor, attempted to sue the manufacturer to recover some of their losses—Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) noted that "empathy is the opposite of indifference." In a later statement, Schumer said that "in [Sotomayor's] courtroom the rule of law always triumphs," with which Sotomayor agreed.[53]

Sotomayor's Latina woman statement was once again quoted up by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Graham opined that "if I had said anything like that, and my reasoning was that I was trying to inspire somebody, they would have had my head," and also "If Lindsey Graham said, I will make a better Senator than 'X' because of my experience as a caucasian male, makes me better able to represent the people of South Carolina, and my opponent was a minority ... It would make national news ... and it should." Graham claimed that he would not judge Sotomayor based on that one statement, while making it clear that "others could come nowhere close to that statement, and survive." Sotomayor agreed, but still represented that her words were taken out of context, specifically "in the context of the person's life."[54] Graham later brought up statements that had been made by anonymous lawyers which described Sotomayor's temperament in a negative fashion.[55] Despite the tone of Graham's points, he stated that he may still vote for her.[56]

As the final questioner of the day, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) asked Sotomayor about her opinions on Justice Blackmun's quote that he will cease to tinker with the death penalty, and on his regret concerning the disparity in crack/powder cocaine sentencing for which Congress, and he, had voted. Sotomayor demurred from criticizing Congress and more or less passed on answering. Durbin followed up on his death penalty question emphasizing his concern about courts following up on assuring appeals plaintiffs about DNA evidence that may have come to light since their convictions, and he also brought up the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in stating that "the recent decision of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber is a classic example of the Supreme Court putting activism over common sense," in reference to statements made by Republican critics who had labeled her as an activist judge.[57]

After the conclusion of Senator Durbin's statements, the committee convened.

Day 3 (Jul. 15)

On July 15, 2009, the second day of questioning began with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who immediately went after her "wise Latina" remark once again, in trying to further clarify the difference between that statement, and the statement that Sotomayor has compared hers to, in which former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor likened the decisions made by a "wise old woman" and a "wise old man." Cornyn also noted a 1996 quote made by Sotomayor, in which she stated that judges can "change law." Sotomayor went on to claim that the statement was taken out of context, and that she was explaining the process of law to the public, and that judges "can't change law. We are not lawmakers." Cornyn also asked if President Obama had asked Sotomayor's opinion on abortion rights. She responded that "[he] did not ask me about any specific legal questions [...] or any social issues."[58] Cornyn ended asking for further explanation about her ruling in the Ricci v. New Haven case.[59][60]

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) sought to balance Senator Lindsey Graham's selected anonymous statements decrying about Sotomayor's temperament, by reading positive reviews from fellow lawyers and judges.[61] Cardin also raised the Voting Rights Act, and inquired Sotomayor's opinion on the right of the public to participate in voting. Sotomayor stated that voting is a fundamental right, and that the Congress has done a good job in regard to protecting the right to vote. Cardin recognized Sotomayor's achievements at Princeton University, and asked of her opinion of hearing different voices in public schools, as well as steps the federal government could take to further recognize diversity. Sotomayor cited the example of the University of Michigan, which promoted "as much diversity as possible." She also referenced the Equal Protection Clause under the law. In closing his statement, Cardin finally asked about Sotomayor's opinion on privacy, in terms of technology, and how it should be interpreted under the Constitution, which was "written in the eighteenth century." Sotomayor made it clear that privacy is specifically protected under the Constitution.[62]

In reacting to the outbursts by anti-abortion advocates, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) asked numerous questions in regard to abortion under the law. Sotomayor answered by stating that she would need to look at the respective states' laws in the individual cases, and that she would not be able to answer the question without being informed about the details of the specific case. She also made it clear that "[judges] do not make policy" in terms of abortion, but only apply the law as it is specified.[63][64] Coburn then went on to inquire about the Second Amendment, and referenced District of Columbia v. Heller, in asking if it was or was not the fundamental right of Americans to bear arms. Sotomayor agreed with Coburn that there is a fundamental and individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. Going further, Coburn then inquired about Sotomayor's personal opinion on the right to self-defense, which Sotomayor steadfastly refused to answer according to her own opinion, answering instead by stating that under New York law, facing certain imminent threat, "you can use force to repel that, and that would be legal."[65] Coburn then asked if there was any right to use any foreign law in a judge's rulings in the United States. Sotomayor stated that "Foreign law cannot be used ... as a precedent" unless U.S. statute so directs.[66]

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reassured Sotomayor that she was doing well in her hearing. Whitehouse then asked about Sotomayor's role in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, inquiring if there was a vetting process in deciding the board members. Sotomayor stated there was none. Whitehouse then went on to ask about the search and seizure, as well as the federal government's involvement in warrants, in terms of fighting "terrorist extremists." She stated that it was the judge's decision whether a warrant should or should not be issued, based on the evidence presented.[67]

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) went back to previous statements made by Sotomayor, in terms of whether rulings should be based on personal feelings, or on law. Sotomayor reiterated her statements that she can only "apply the law", and not make it. Klobuchar then asked about a child pornography case, in which a warrant was not properly attained. Sotomayor described that she had sided with the panel, which had ruled that the search was unconstitutional, but the police officers had acted in "good faith." Further statements by Klobuchar were very supportive of Sotomayor,[68] and noted her sentencings of white collar defendents.[69]

Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE) asked about Sotomayor's tenure as a litigator of commercial law cases. Kaufman asked numerous questions about how her commercial practice incorporates itself into her current evaluations and rulings as a judge. Kaufman then referenced a case in which she ruled legal immunity for the New York Stock Exchange, despite Sotomayor's statement that their "behavior was egregious".[70] Kaufman also asked questions on antitrust law, and about how economic theory related to judicial decisions.[71]

After a brief recess, Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) first complimented Sotomayor on her handling of questions during the hearing. Specter then once again brought up the wise Latina comment, and likened them to similar statements from others currently on the Supreme Court.[72] The terror surveillance program was then brought up, with Specter very critical of former President Bush's wiretapping of US citizens without warrants. Sotomayor largely avoided getting immersed in the controversy.[73] Specter then made a case for allowing television cameras into the courtroom. Sotomayor stated that she personally allowed television cameras into her courtroom, but conceded that it is up to the justices on the Supreme Court whether to allow it at that level.[74]

The newest member of the committee, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) noted that the "hearings are a way for Americans to learn about the court, and the impact on their lives." He transitioned to free speech in regards to the internet, and noted the value of such tools as Twitter to convey the facts on the ground of the recent Iranian election protests. Franken asked about the role of Internet service providers regarding the issue of net neutrality, in speeding up the service provider's own content while slowing down other providers' content. Sotomayor stated that the "role of the court is to not make the policy, it is to wait until Congress acts." Franken further pressed by asking "Isn't there a compelling, overriding, first amendment right here, for Americans to have access to the internet?" Sotomayor stated that "rights are rights, and what the court looks at is how Congress balances those rights in a particular situation, and then judge whether that balance is within constitutional boundaries [...] and then we'll look at that and see if it's constitutional."[75][76] Franken asked the definition of "judicial activism," which Sotomayor said was neither descriptive of her nor a term she uses, averring that she does not use labels.[77] Franken notably then pulled out his pocket Constitution, referencing the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in noting the recent decision to uphold the Voting Rights Act, which Sotomayor declined to speak on because the case was pending a future ruling by the Supreme Court. Franken asked if the words "birth control" and "privacy" were in the Constitution, in reference to previous Senators' statements on whether or not the word "abortion" was in the Constitution. Sotomayor answered that neither of those words are in the Constitution, after which Franken asked if the Constitution was "at all relevant" in regards to certain issues, which Sotomayor argued against. Franken finally asked if privacy issues were involved in abortion rights, and Sotomayor agreed.[78]

The committee then convened to a closed session, to review a Federal Bureau of Investigation background check, which is a part of the regular vetting process.

After reconvening, Senator Jeff Sessions began his second round of questioning by bringing up the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, and asked if she had been involved in fundraising. Sotomayor stated that board members serve other functions than fundraising, including "employment, public health, education, and others." Senator Leahy then interjected, and followed up on his concerns over the Second Amendment. Senator Kohl then brought up arguments mentioned by Ted Kaufman in regards to antitrust laws, and Sotomayor responded by stating that she would, at the "court's precedent, [...] apply it" to the situation. Kohl then gave a statistic stating that the Supreme Court only hears "about one percent" of the cases that are brought before the court. Senator Orrin Hatch gave further arguments about the Doctrine of Incorporation, and further reviewed Sotomayor's statement of "fidelity to the law." Hatch also brought up the right to privacy, and the fact that Sotomayor had stated that the Constitution "cannot be bent," and that courts "can apply the words of the Constitution to the facts of the case before them." Hatch next brought up once again the issue of "empathy" in judicial ruling. Sotomayor once again responded that personal experience does not trump the law.

After a recess, Senator Feinstein drew a line of support for Sotomayor. Senator Grassley then brought up the issue of gay marriage, and whether the federal government or the states' governments should decide the issue. Sotomayor described the process, but not her own personal opinion on the matter or how she would approach the case. Grassley continued to press on Sotomayor's rulings in multiple cases, with Sotomayor explaining the process of judging involved in each specific case. Senator Cardin was the final Senator to question Sotomayor, and thanked Sotomayor for her service, and for appearing before the Judiciary Committee. Cardin asked about freedom of religion, and the Separation of church and state in the United States, to which Sotomayor was supportive of the law involving freedom of religion, and restriction of the states to form their own religion. Recess was called after Senator Cardin finished questioning.

Day 4 (Jul. 16)

On July 16, 2009, the second round of questioning continued with Senator Jon Kyl. Kyl immediately began asking about the Supreme Court's precedent in the Ricci v. DeStefano case. Sotomayor stated that the precedent involved "the city discriminating a certain race," despite stating that there was no precedent, while originally ruling on the case. Kyl then asked about her statements involving district and circuit courts, in following precedent. Sotomayor then stated that "when precedent is set [...] they have policy ramifications." Senator Dianne Feinstein then began to follow up on questions raised by Senator Kyl. Feinstein also referenced her wise Latina statement, in stating that Feinstein "would like to put it in the context of women. In asking if she felt she was an inspiration to women, Sotomayor then stated that "[her] career as a judge [...] does serve as an inspiration for others." Feinstein then noted that she thinks Sotomayor will be a great Supreme Court Justice.

Senator Lindsey Graham then began his questioning, asking about whether or not the Second Amendment was a fundamental right, which Sotomayor agreed. Graham then asked "What binds you, when it comes to a fundamental right?" Sotomayor responded by quickly saying, "The rule of law." Graham then asked about abortion rights, in regards to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. Sotomayor refused to answer the question. Next asked about the death penalty, and a statement she made in the 1980s in opposition to the death penalty. Graham then stated that her stance on the issues is "left of center." Graham then asked if Sotomayor regretted her wise Latina remark, to which Sotomayor stated that "it was not [her] intention to leave the impression, that people have gotten from [her] words" about the wise Latina comment.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, then began her questioning, and began by reading positive letters, casting Sotomayor in a positive light. Senator John Cornyn next questioned statements that she had made in speeches, and how they are "quite different" from what "[she] is saying before the committee." Sotomayor answered by stating to "look at [her] record." Next asking about gay marriage, and whether that would be making law, or interpreting the law, if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of gay marriage, and Sotomayor largely attempted to avoid answering the question. Next asking about campaign contributions, and difference of a contribution and a bribe, and referenced President Barack Obama's large amounts of fundraising from private funds, Sotomayor agreed with the statements that Cornyn made about whether or not it was the right of individuals to contribute. Senator Arlen Specter began his questioning, and asked about the number of cases that the Supreme Court hears, to which Sotomayor responded that "it appears" the Supreme Court "has the capacity to hear more cases." Specter went on to raise specific court cases, as well as reference his previous questions about 9/11, to which Sotomayor responded in the same fashion as when she previously was asked the question.[79] The committee recessed afterward.

After recess, Senator Tom Coburn began his questioning of Sotomayor, and began by again asking about precedent, and ruling by the law. Coburn then went on to reiterate his earlier questions about abortion, including whether or not Roe v. Wade overrided the state's positions on abortion, which Sotomayor stated that she did not know, before Coburn stated that it was. Senator Al Franken then began his questioning, and asked why Sotomayor wants to be a Supreme Court justice. Franken then stated that he would in fact be supporting Sotomayor, after she told a story from when she first began her career.

Senator Jeff Sessions next began a third round of questioning, to raise concerns that he had about some of Sotomayor's answers. Sessions then stated that he would not support a Republican filibuster. Third round questioning continued with Senators Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Tom Coburn, and Patrick Leahy briefly raising their concerns, and getting short answers from Sotomayor.

Witness testimony

Witness testimony began with Kim Askew and Mary Boies, representing the Standing Committee of the American Bar Association, who reviewed Sotomayor as 'highly qualified.'

The second series of testimonies involved the Ricci v. DeStefano case. Attorney General of Arkansas Dustin McDaniel,[80] New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,[81] New York County District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau,[82] and Leader of the Conference of Civil Rights Professor Wade Henderson[83] testified in support of Sotomayor. Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Lisa Chavez of the Center for Equal Opportunity[84] as well as firefighters Frank Ricci and Lieutenant Ben Vargas[85] testified in opposition to Sotomayor's confirmation.

The third panel of testimony being sworn in before the Judiciary Committee.

In the third series of testimonies, Louis Freeh, former associate of Sotomayor and former FBI Director, Chuck Canterbury of the Fraternal Order of Police, former MLB player David Cone, Kate Stith of Yale Law School all advocated Sotomayor's confirmation, and Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life,former National Rifle Association president Sandy Froman, David Kopel of the Independence Institute, and Ilya Somin of the George Mason University School of Law all advocated against Sotomayor's confirmation.

In the fourth series of testimonies, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez of New York, President of the Hispanic National Bar Association Ramona Romero, and former Sotomayor associate Theodore Shaw of the Columbia Law School, all advocated Sotomayor's confirmation, and Tim Jeffries of P7 Enterprises opposed Sotomayor's confirmation. Neomi Rao of the George Mason University School of Law, John McGinnis of the Northwestern University School of Law, and Nick Rosenkranz of the Georgetown University Law Center also gave testimonies, but stated that they neither opposed, nor advocate Sotomayor's confirmation.

In the fifth series of testimonies, Congressman José Serrano of New York, Patricia Hynes of the New York Bar Association and JoAnne A. Epps of the National Association of Women Lawyers all advocated Sotomayor's confirmation, and Stephen Holbrook of the National Rifle Association opposed Sotomayor's confirmation. While David B. Rivkin of the law firm Baker & Hostetler stated that he neither opposed, nor advocated Sotomayor's confirmation.

The committee then convened, after hearing all the statements made by each witness.

Senate voting

A blue outline signifies a Democratic Senator, a red outline signifies a Republican Senator, and a light green outline signifies an Independent Senator. A green fill signifies a vote of Yea, a red fill signifies a vote of Nay, and a gray fill signifies that the Senator did not vote.
A map of votes by the full Senate.
Senator John Cornyn meeting with Sotomayor.
Senator Bernie Sanders meeting with Sotomayor.
Senator Daniel Akaka meeting with Sotomayor.
Senator Ben Cardin meeting with Sotomayor.
Senator Ted Kaufman meeting with Sotomayor.
Senator Russ Feingold meeting with Sotomayor.
Senator Blanche Lincoln meeting with Sotomayor.
Senator Frank Lautenberg meeting with Sotomayor.
Senator Arlen Specter meeting with Sotomayor.

On July 28, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 in favor of Sotomayor, setting up a final confirmation vote by the Senate.

The full Senate ended its debate on the confirmation on August 6, and, as expected, confirmed Sotomayor, on a vote of 68-31.[86] Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, a supporter of the nomination,[87] was not present for voting due to health issues.[88] A minimum of 51 votes, or a simple majority, was required for confirmation.

State Senator Party Sonia Sotomayor portrait.jpg
Confirmation vote of
Sonia Sotomayor
Hawaii Akaka, DanielDaniel Akaka D Yea
Tennessee Alexander, LamarLamar Alexander R Yea
Wyoming Barrasso, JohnJohn Barrasso R Nay
Montana Baucus, MaxMax Baucus D Yea
Indiana Bayh, EvanEvan Bayh D Yea
Alaska Begich, MarkMark Begich D Yea
Colorado Bennet, MichaelMichael Bennet D Yea
Utah Bennett, RobertRobert Bennett R Nay
New Mexico Bingaman, JeffJeff Bingaman D Yea
Missouri Bond, KitKit Bond R Yea
California Boxer, BarbaraBarbara Boxer D Yea
Ohio Brown, SherrodSherrod Brown D Yea
Kansas Brownback, SamSam Brownback R Nay
Kentucky Bunning, JimJim Bunning R Nay
North Carolina Burr, RichardRichard Burr R Nay
Illinois Burris, RolandRoland Burris D Yea
West Virginia Byrd, RobertRobert Byrd D Yea
Washington Cantwell, MariaMaria Cantwell D Yea
Maryland Cardin, BenBen Cardin D Yea
Delaware Carper, TomTom Carper D Yea
Pennsylvania Casey, Jr., BobBob Casey, Jr. D Yea
Georgia Chambliss, SaxbySaxby Chambliss R Nay
Oklahoma Coburn, TomTom Coburn R Nay
Mississippi Cochran, ThadThad Cochran R Nay
Maine Collins, SusanSusan Collins R Yea
North Dakota Conrad, KentKent Conrad D Yea
Tennessee Corker, BobBob Corker R Nay
Texas Cornyn, JohnJohn Cornyn R Nay
Idaho Crapo, MikeMike Crapo R Nay
South Carolina DeMint, JimJim DeMint R Nay
Connecticut Dodd, ChristopherChristopher Dodd D Yea
North Dakota Dorgan, ByronByron Dorgan D Yea
Illinois Durbin, DickDick Durbin D Yea
Nevada Ensign, JohnJohn Ensign R Nay
Wyoming Enzi, MikeMike Enzi R Nay
Wisconsin Feingold, RussRuss Feingold D Yea
California Feinstein, DianneDianne Feinstein D Yea
Minnesota Franken, AlAl Franken D Yea
New York Gillibrand, KirstenKirsten Gillibrand D Yea
South Carolina Graham, LindseyLindsey Graham R Yea
Iowa Grassley, ChuckChuck Grassley R Nay
New Hampshire Gregg, JuddJudd Gregg R Yea
North Carolina Hagan, KayKay Hagan D Yea
Iowa Harkin, TomTom Harkin D Yea
Utah Hatch, OrrinOrrin Hatch R Nay
Texas Hutchison, Kay BaileyKay Bailey Hutchison R Nay
Oklahoma Inhofe, JimJim Inhofe R Nay
Hawaii Inouye, DanielDaniel Inouye D Yea
Georgia Isakson, JohnnyJohnny Isakson R Nay
Nebraska Johanns, MikeMike Johanns R Nay
South Dakota Johnson, TimTim Johnson D Yea
Delaware Kaufman, TedTed Kaufman D Yea
Massachusetts Kennedy, TedTed Kennedy D Did not vote
Massachusetts Kerry, JohnJohn Kerry D Yea
Minnesota Klobuchar, AmyAmy Klobuchar D Yea
Wisconsin Kohl, HerbHerb Kohl D Yea
Arizona Kyl, JonJon Kyl R Nay
Louisiana Landrieu, MaryMary Landrieu D Yea
New Jersey Lautenberg, FrankFrank Lautenberg D Yea
Vermont Leahy, PatrickPatrick Leahy D Yea
Michigan Levin, CarlCarl Levin D Yea
Connecticut Lieberman, JoeJoe Lieberman I Yea
Arkansas Lincoln, BlancheBlanche Lincoln D Yea
Indiana Lugar, RichardRichard Lugar R Yea
Florida Martinez, MelMel Martinez R Yea
Arizona McCain, JohnJohn McCain R Nay
Missouri McCaskill, ClaireClaire McCaskill D Yea
Kentucky McConnell, MitchMitch McConnell R Nay
New Jersey Menendez, BobBob Menendez D Yea
Oregon Merkley, JeffJeff Merkley D Yea
Maryland Mikulski, BarbaraBarbara Mikulski D Yea
Alaska Murkowski, LisaLisa Murkowski R Nay
Washington Murray, PattyPatty Murray D Yea
Nebraska Nelson, BenBen Nelson D Yea
Florida Nelson, BillBill Nelson D Yea
Arkansas Pryor, MarkMark Pryor D Yea
Rhode Island Reed, JackJack Reed D Yea
Nevada Reid, HarryHarry Reid D Yea
Idaho Risch, JimJim Risch R Nay
Kansas Roberts, PatPat Roberts R Nay
West Virginia Rockefeller, JayJay Rockefeller D Yea
Vermont Sanders, BernieBernie Sanders I Yea
New York Schumer, ChuckChuck Schumer D Yea
Alabama Sessions, JeffJeff Sessions R Nay
New Hampshire Shaheen, JeanneJeanne Shaheen D Yea
Alabama Shelby, RichardRichard Shelby R Nay
Maine Snowe, OlympiaOlympia Snowe R Yea
Pennsylvania Specter, ArlenArlen Specter D Yea
Michigan Stabenow, DebbieDebbie Stabenow D Yea
Montana Tester, JonJon Tester D Yea
South Dakota Thune, JohnJohn Thune R Nay
Colorado Udall, MarkMark Udall D Yea
New Mexico Udall, TomTom Udall D Yea
Louisiana Vitter, DavidDavid Vitter R Nay
Ohio Voinovich, GeorgeGeorge Voinovich R Yea
Virginia Warner, MarkMark Warner D Yea
Virginia Webb, JimJim Webb D Yea
Rhode Island Whitehouse, SheldonSheldon Whitehouse D Yea
Mississippi Wicker, RogerRoger Wicker R Nay
Oregon Wyden, RonRon Wyden D Yea

Notes: All dates are in 2009. D = Democratic; R = Republican; I = independent

Commissioning and Swearing in

Sotomayor at the White House following her swearing in on August 12, 2009.

President Obama commissioned Sotomayor an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court the same day as her confirmation, August 6, 2009.[89] Following her commissioning, Sotomayor was sworn in by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John G. Roberts on August 8, 2009 in the Court's east conference room.[90] Prior to the public swearing-in ceremony, she was also privately sworn in behind closed doors.[91]

On August 12, 2009, a ceremony was held at the White House.[92][93] Both President Barack Obama and Sotomayor gave a speech in regards to her successful confirmation as Associate Justice; with Sotomayor stating that "No words can adequately express what I am feeling, [...] no speech can fully capture my joy in this moment."[94]

Sotomayor was formally invested in the Court on September 8, 2009, in a special session.[95]

Other reactions to nomination

Elected officials and political figures

Former President George H. W. Bush defended Sotomayor and blasted former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for accusing her of being racist, calling it "not fair" and "not right". Bush also lauded Sotomayor for her "distinguished record on the bench" and stated that she was entitled to a fair hearing.[96]

Former First Lady Laura Bush stated that Sotomayor was an "interesting pick" and believes that Sotomayor is a "good nominee". Bush also stated that she was "excited" at the prospect of having another woman on the Supreme Court.[96]

New York Governor David Paterson applauded President Obama for the decision by saying, “Throughout her impressive life and career, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has demonstrated the integrity, leadership and intellect that make her an outstanding nominee to our nation’s highest court. I congratulate President Obama for his selection of Judge Sotomayor, a native New Yorker whose legal mind will undoubtedly benefit our entire judicial system."[97]

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney issued a statement saying, "The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is troubling. Her public statements make it clear she has an expansive view of the role of the judiciary.[98]

Al Sharpton called the nomination "prudent, groundbreaking and the right choice at this time in our nation's history as we face serious constitutional and legal questions that will impact the lives of Americans for decades to come."[99]

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that the nomination "is a powerful message, a powerful message of hope and opportunity of hope through this appointment". With respect to Sotomayor, Gonzales said, "I have no questions in my mind about her qualifications in terms of education, experience. A president is not required to nominate the most qualified person to the court. I think he's obligated to nominate someone who is well qualified, and I think by any measure she is well qualified. I think there are legitimate questions about her judicial philosophy, and again, that will be something that will be examined in the confirmation process".[100]

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese said "What we already know about Judge Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy from public statements and judicial opinions demands careful inquiry by the Senate. Senators must engage in robust advice and consent to assure that if confirmed, Judge Sotomayor would not use her seat on the Supreme Court to advance liberal policy preferences, rather than applying the Constitution as it is written."[101]

Commentators and interest groups

  • National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy said "President Obama said he wanted a justice with 'towering intellect' and a 'common touch' and he found both in Judge Sotomayor."[102]
  • Cecile Richards, president of pro-choice group Planned Parenthood, said "What our nation needs from our Supreme Court justices is a deep understanding of the law, an appreciation of the impact of the court’s decisions on everyday Americans, and a commitment to the protection of our individual liberties. Judge Sotomayor will bring this dedication and commitment with her to the bench."[103]
  • Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute said, "Judge Sotomayor is not one of the leading lights of the federal judiciary and would not even have been on the shortlist if she were not Hispanic."[16]
  • Pat Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition, said “The Republicans have got to take a stand on this one, If they don’t, they can kiss their chances of ever getting back into power away.”[104]
  • Randall Terry, founder of the pro-life group Operation Rescue, urged Republicans to block a Senate vote on Sotomayor saying, “Do GOP leaders have the courage and integrity to filibuster an activist, pro-Roe judge?”[104]
  • Larry Klayman, founder of the conservative groups Freedom Watch and Judicial Watch, offered guarded praise: "While I would have liked to see a more conservative libertarian type on the high court, President Obama's selection of New York federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayer was a very prudent and wise decision from a far left liberal like Obama. Having initially been appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush, soon to be justice Sotomayer has previously pledged to follow the Constitution, and not legislate from the bench, and her career as a federal court judge suggests, as a whole, that this is the way she will administer to the law."[105]
  • Wendy E. Long, counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network says "Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one's sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench."[106]
  • Tom Tancredo, former Colorado Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, appeared on CNN to voice his opposition to the nomination. When Rick Sanchez asked him if Sonia Sotomayor is a racist Tancredo replied “certainly her words would indicate that that is the truth”.[107]
  • Free speech advocates have criticized Sotomayor for upholding a school's punishment of a student for criticizing her school's administrators on an off-campus blog on her own personal time. [108]

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b Weiner, Rachel Jr. (2009-05-01). "Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Nominee? All You Need To Know". Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/01/sonia-sotomayor-supreme-c_n_194470.html. Retrieved 2009-05-01.  
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  26. ^ Kansas Senator to oppose Sotomayor
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  48. ^ Republicans Walk Fine Line Questioning Sotomayor
  49. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Feinstein paints conservative jurists as ‘activist judges’
  50. ^ Sotomayor hearings: A protest -- then a punch line‎
  51. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Sen. Feingold asks about Bush administration's post-9/11 security policies
  52. ^ Kyl forgoes pleasantries, presses Sotomayor
  53. ^ Schumer Defends Sotomayor From Bias Claims
  54. ^ Sen. Lindsey Graham Bullies Sotomayor - While Accusing Her Of Being Bully
  55. ^ Graham: Do you have a temperament problem?
  56. ^ Sen. Graham Says He's Inclined to Vote for Sotomayor
  57. ^ Day 2, Confirmation Hearings: Do You ‘Have a Temperament Problem?’ Sen. Graham Asks
  58. ^ Obama didn't ask abortion views, Sotomayor says
  59. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Big John
  60. ^ Sotomayor hearing resumes
  61. ^ Sotomayor: Senators Begin Questioning, What to Expect Today
  62. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Judicial temperament -- or temperamental?
  63. ^ Coburn Turns The Sotomayor Hearings To Abortion
  64. ^ Sotomayor declines to talk about abortion views
  65. ^ Without a Precedent, Sotomayor Has a Hard Time Expressing an Opinion
  66. ^ Sotomayor hearings: For guns or against?
  67. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Thumbs up for the American jury system
  68. ^ Klobuchar: 'I've been very impressed so far'‎
  69. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Finally, moms take center stage
  70. ^ US court nominee won't discuss financial regulation
  71. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Talking business is a bonus and a bore
  72. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Arlen Specter tries to defuse 'wise Latina' controversy
  73. ^ Judge Sonia: Angry Arlen Specter
  74. ^ Specter Urges Sotomayor to Allow TV Cameras in the Court
  75. ^ Franken Will Raise Network Neutrality With Sotomayor
  76. ^ Specter likes Sotomayor's record, but not her answers
  77. ^ Sotomayor hearings: Franken talks 'Mason' and judicial activism
  78. ^ Al Franken, Determined to Get to the Bottom of the Perry Mason Controversy
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  86. ^ Sotomayor confirmation vote set for Thursday afternoon‎
  87. ^ KENNEDY STATEMENT ON THE HISTORIC NOMINATION OF JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR TO THE SUPREME COURT
  88. ^ Ailing Sen. Kennedy fails to attend Sotomayor vote
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  91. ^ Sotomayor Becomes First Hispanic Justice in Supreme Court History
  92. ^ Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrated at White House‎
  93. ^ Obama welcomes Sotomayor to high court
  94. ^ Obama calls Sotomayor's rise 'an extraordinary moment'
  95. ^ Sotomayor to be sworn in Saturday - CNN.com
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