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Sotomayor hearings: Impartial? Republicans are not so sure

July 13, 2009 |  9:47 am

Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, did what his Republican colleagues have done all morning: He raised concerns about whether Sotomayor would be able to put aside any personal feelings and prejudices and be an impartial arbiter on the nation’s high court.

He did not call into question any of her official opinions -- that will certainly come later and will probably get heated when she is called upon to defend her opinion in the case of  the white firefighters from New Haven, Conn., a ruling that was recently reversed by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote. But, like his fellow Republican senators, Coburn recited some of the snippets from her speeches that have raised conservative hackles.

On a panel several years ago, Sotomayor said that policy is made in the Court of Appeals, but then she immediately corrected herself and said that she should not have uttered such a thing.

“Appeals is where policy is made?” said Coburn. “That is surprising to me. The court is to be a check, not a policymaker.”

As to her "wise Latina" remark, he said, “Your assertion that ethnicity and gender would make someone a better judge -- although I understand the feelings and emotions behind it, I am not sure that could be factually correct, maybe a better judge than some but not a better judge than others.”

Coburn said, “It shouldn’t matter which judge you get, it should matter what the law is and what the facts are.”

-- Robin Abcarian

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