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Sotomayor hearings: The judge's own opening statement -- full text

Opening Statement by Judge Sonia Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee, July 13, 2009,
as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I also want to thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for that kind introduction. In recent weeks, I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting eighty-nine gracious Senators, including all the members of this Committee. I thank you for the time you have spent with me.  Our meetings have given me an illuminating tour of the fifty states and invaluable insights into the American people.

There are countless family members, friends, mentors, colleagues, and clerks who have done so much over the years to make this day possible. I am deeply appreciative for their love and support.   I want to make one special note of thanks to my mom.  I am here today because of her aspirations and sacrifices for both my brother Juan and me.  Mom, I love that we are sharing this together.   I am very grateful to the President and humbled to be here today as a nominee to the United States Supreme Court.  

The progression of my life has been uniquely American.  My parents left Puerto Rico during World War II.  I grew up in modest circumstances in a Bronx housing project.  My father, a factory worker with a third grade education, passed away when I was nine years old. 

On her own, my mother raised my brother and me. She taught us that the key to success in America is a good education.  And she set the example, studying alongside my brother and me at our kitchen table so that she could become a registered nurse.  We worked hard. 

I poured myself into my studies at Cardinal Spellman High School, earning scholarships to Princeton University and then Yale Law School, while my brother went to medical school.  Our achievements are due to the values that we learned as children, and they have continued to guide my life’s endeavors.  I try to pass on this legacy by serving as a mentor and friend to my many godchildren and students of all backgrounds.

Over the past three decades, I have seen our judicial system from a number of different perspectives – as a big-city prosecutor, a corporate litigator, a trial judge and an appellate judge.  My first job after law school was....

... as an assistant District Attorney in New York. There, I saw children exploited and abused. I felt the suffering of victims’ families torn apart by a loved one’s needless death. 

And I learned the tough job law enforcement has protecting the public safety.  In my next legal job, I focused on commercial, instead of criminal, matters.  I litigated issues on behalf of national and international businesses and advised them on matters ranging from contracts to trademarks.  

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.  As a trial judge, I decided over four hundred and fifty cases, and presided over dozens of trials, with perhaps my best known case involving the Major League Baseball strike in 1995.

After six extraordinary years on the district court, I was appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  On that Court, I have enjoyed the benefit of sharing ideas and perspectives with wonderful colleagues as we have worked together to resolve the issues before us. I have now served as an appellate judge for over a decade, deciding a wide range of Constitutional, statutory, and other legal questions. 

Throughout my seventeen years on the bench, I have witnessed the human consequences of my decisions. Those decisions have been made not to serve the interests of any one litigant, but always to serve the larger interest of impartial justice.

In the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy.  It is simple: fidelity to the law.  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 Congress’s intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court.  In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand.

The process of judging is enhanced when the arguments and concerns of the parties to the litigation are understood and acknowledged.  That is why I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then by explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected.   That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system.  My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case.

Since President Obama announced my nomination in May, I have received letters from people all over this country. Many tell a unique story of hope in spite of struggles. Each letter has deeply touched me.  Each reflects a belief in the dream that led my parents to come to New York all those years ago.  It is our Constitution that makes that Dream possible, and I now seek the honor of upholding the Constitution as a Justice on the Supreme Court.

I look forward in the next few days to answering your questions, to having the American people learn more about me, and to being part of a process that reflects the greatness of our Constitution and of our nation.  Thank you.   ###

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Photo: Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor addresses the US Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on her nomination. Credit: EPA / MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Comments () | Archives (17)

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The most interesting aspect of Sotomayor's "amazing personal journey" is how utterly routine it is. Work hard, follow the rules, you can succeed in America. Happens every single day. It doesn't matter what race or gender or are. It's been this way for decades, yet still we persist with the myth of racism and sexism.

Please. Get over it already.

Peterike- well said- *insert sarcasm here* especially for someone who has probably never encountered either of those fictional occurances.

Sotomayor says, "My mother ... taught us that the key to success in America is a good education." And so her mother sent her to a Catholic school.
Perhaps the Senators should remember these words when deciding whether to allow DC parents the right to choose a school for their children, or to force them to go to crummy schools that the parents don't want for their children.

peterike - "Work hard, follow the rules, you can succeed in America." Yes that can be true. But it is also true that if you are a white male, you can not work hard or follow the rules and still succeed in America.

Imagine a minority who coined ridiculous words, had barely passing grades in college, and ran a company into the ground getting elected President. It's inconceivable yet that is exactly what George W. Bush did.

In many ways minorities have to have stellar records in order to achieve what many non-minorities get without much effort. This is why the 'myth' or racism and sexism still persist. That, and it's not a is reality.


Are you serious with that remark? Racism and Sexism is a myth? Tell that to those that are scared for thier lives if they see men in sheets coming towards them. Tell that to the woman who has hit a ceiling at work that other men who are less qualified have busted through. Yes hard work and following rules have been done for years with successful outcomes, but saying that her story is boring is...well biggoted.

Have a great day! :)

It is rather ironic that we have an African American president and supreme court justice, yet the concept of "work hard, study hard, and you can succeed" falls on deaf ears. After all, why work for it when you can lobby having it handed to you instead?

Judge Sotomayor said in her opening remarks: "In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand. " That is just not true. Where in the law does it say that when clear discrimination is against someone other than a particular minority that it is ok? Yet that is precisely what she did with the Ricci case. Also her comments about the courts "making policy" are again specifically prohibited by the constitution. Beware of this agenda driven idiolog.

You all follow like sheep - someone tells you "this is truth" and you believe it. You believe their is racism (against non-white) and sexism (again females) but you care LESS for the FACTS than truth.

BECAUSE I'm a White, Male I DO NOT qualify for jobs and opportunities, yet because my wife is hispanic if I make her 51% owner of my company NOW I qualify for "opportunities" / Loans / Government Contracts. And you IDIOTS believe we need MORE for non-whites and females?

Why is it the MAJORITY of laid off are males - not only in numbers but in RATIO as well? Why is it the I, as a while, male, cannot qualify for government jobs, loans - meaning I'm WITHOUT work - yet the second I claim my company as a minority owned I'm in like Flynn??

You all are complete IDIOTS that voted for this retard (OMABA) and cloes your eyes to the fact he and his buddies are destroying our country.

The two greatest threats to our country are and have been democrats and liberals (same/same) not Osama Bin Laden (or is it.. Obama Bin Laden).

Get off your asses and take BACK our country!! By God, by force if needed I say...

She will have to rule on the most important issue of the 21st century: where is the birth certificate?


Just Words, Just Speeches. Same from Obama. It is not what they will tell you it is what they have done and how it is going to go forward - this is where the truth lies - pun intended.

Unfortunately, like Obama the damage will have been done.

I pray that she applies the law in all areas, especially, in the areas of defending the constitution and the laws therein. But there maybe times when some laws can be capricious, when it comes to defending it during time of war and that even a Presidential Administration, has an oath to adhere too when it comes to defending the citizens of the United States against all adversaries that might want the death and downfall of the USA. All laws pertaining to a nation at war should be relevant to the welfare of it's citizens and interest, and that Life, Liberty and the persuit of Happiness as stated in the constitution of the USA. The enemies who want to kill us and do harm to the USA, should not have more power than those who put their lives in harms way daily as our soldiers. Regarding, the life of those unborn children should also have a right to life, and should also be protected. Abortion should not be a method of birth control. Women should not have to abort a baby because they did not prevent the pregnancy through birth control or they made a mistake. God Bless they USA

IBarack Obama has not released transcripts for his grades from Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law. He has also not released his SAT and LSAT scores. No explanation has been offered for not releasing them. Liberals get a pass.

Seems that one's minority status can be a hurdle in life, until one enters politics, then it becomes a catapult.

Sotomayor is a political operative of Democrat politics. There is no doubt about it. However, the reasons for her success are conservative values. Those being education and hard work. What those who keep voting for the Democrats can't seem to recognize is that they want you to stay on their dole. Why? Because it means the Democrats stay in power. If everyone figured out that applying themselves educationally and then doing the same in the workplace leads to success, then there would be no need for the Democrats to exist. Only those with their hands out, as they are now, will continue to support them.

Sotomayor will get the nod and be a Supreme Court justice. But, she is being placed there to ensure Supreme Court decisions keep a large chunk of the population in their place by making sure they do not learn the value of a good education or hard work. Keeping them educated in the government indoctrination facilities, known as public schools, and having them believe the government takes care of them ensures this.

chris: "...coined ridiculous words, had barely passing grades in college, and ran a company into the ground getting elected President... exactly what George W. Bush did."

Absolutely not true, my friend. Bush had excellent grades in college and worked very hard. Perhaps you should look beyond the sources you normally use that tell you "Bush is an idiot" and learn about the actual successes of the guy you so easily dismiss.

Wow....... No where in this entire statement does she mention the CONSTITUITION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Peterlike I agree with you! Sotomayor speaks too much about "affirmative action" and "cultural bias." If cultural bias are so prevalent in education, why are the UC schools teeming with Asian enrollment? These Asian students didn't seem to need a hand-out in order to succeed academically!!!!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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