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Sotomayor hearings: Sessions not buying judge's explanation


Things got a little testy when Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican, challenged Sonia Sotomayor on her previous statements about how the “biases, sympathies and prejudices” of a judge will affect her decisions.

But first, he wanted to acknowledge her response to Patrick Leahy about the “wise Latina” comment.

“Had you been saying that with clarity over the last decade or 15 years,” said Sessions, “we’d have a lot fewer problems today.”

He went on: “You have suggested that a judge’s background and experience will impact their decision, which goes against the American ideal that a judge will be fair to every party, and every day when they put on that robe they will put aside their personal prejudices.”

Sotomayor kept her cool as Sessions pressed her on the famous statement she made to a group of students at Duke University that appellate court judges make policy.

“The job of Congress is to decide what policy should be for society,” said Sotomayor. “I was focusing on what district court judges do and what circuit court judges do. District court judges find the facts and their finding doesn’t bind anybody else. Appellate judges establish precedent … that precedent has policy ramifications because it binds not just the litigants in that case, but it binds litigants in cases that may be influenced by that precedent. If my speech is heard outside the few minutes that YouTube presents … it is very clear I was talking about the policy ramifications of precedent.”

Sessions was not buying it. “Judge, I don’t think it’s that clear.”

-- Robin Abcarian

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Photo: Sonia Sotomayor speaks during the second day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on her Supreme Court nomination.  Credit: Michael Reynolds / EPA

Comments () | Archives (12)

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I think that Sessions' relection prospects increased dramatically. I feel that most Americans may rather these hearings fail to confirm Sotomayor despite how wise this latina might be. Know all the right things, I think Sotomayor may say for today; But, Sessions is right in that her past is a better judge in what the wise Latina actually thinks.

it took a bunch of supposedly 'wise' white guys over a century - about 100 years too long - to figure out how to deliver the promise of the constitution's protections to African-American. Isn't that shameful, and why are we so put-out by her comments about wise Latinas? Get a grip.

The exchange between Sessions and Sotomayor was about the most substantive issue concerning the nominee that is of importance to the people of the country; how government is to use race and ethnicity in its treatment of individuals. Is the LA Times going to deal with the issue honestly or paper it over by ignoring the substance and writing about it as a matter of politics? Your write "Sessions not buying judge's explanation." Are the conflicting statements by Sotomayor reconcilable or not?

Face it Sotomayor is about a racist as they come. If a white male jurist said exactly what she said but only substituted the words white and male for female and Hispanic that guy would be off the bench instantly. Every "proclaimed" minority would be demanding a piece of his head.

Look around L.A. whites are the minority in So. CA and still not able to obtain "affrimative action" beneifits whether it be preferential treatment in getting accepted to U.C.L.A or filling a quota for a job hire. Minority is only relative to where you are living. Penguins are a minority in the bird world, but how many pigeons are living in Antartica? Penguins are the majority there.

The best example of Sotomayor's racial prejudice was the over turning of the New Haven firefighters case. This is a group of white guys she wrote a judgement against simply because they passed a test that asked work related questions and not "What is Carlos Santana's favorite chile?" This woman is nothing more than the Latino equivalent of the "good 'ol boy" system white folk have been castigated with for the last 40 years even if we weren't part of that boys club. If it's wrong for elitist whites to engage in such behavior then it is likewise wrong for elitist Latinos like Sotomayor to act in the same manner. Put her on an island with David Duke and the rest of the "my tribe is better and more deserving than yours" morons.

The reason the Republicans want to pound on the "wise Latina" comment ad nauseum is that they are afraid that it is true. Sotomayor's life experiences as a minority woman making her way and competing very successfully in a white male dominanted profession are testimony to her wisdom, & these same white males' objections to the notion that she has wisdom that they don't possess is testimony to their reluctance to give up their position of entitlement to power based solely on their race and gender. Sessions looks very foolish & Sotomayor is shining in the hearings.

I am not sure about the "latina" part but I would say that any Mother could make a better and quicker right decision then those old men, whatever color, who have lost sight of why they are there.

As shown here...
It's all about the politics, NOT the law.
The decision has been made, so enjoy the media event.

No one would bat an eyelash if a White man said "My Christian values dictate my decisions on the bench". Hmmm... I personally see that as a red flag. Why not Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, agnostic or Wiccan values? Again, the vast American public would be up in arms (like with Sotomayor's comments regarding her being a wise Latina) when it comes to anyone who is outside the WASP box.

Just look at the right-wing wierdos in the Supreme Court who reversed Sotomayer in the New Haven firefighter case. These are the same Republican weirdos you find on Schwarzenegger's team in today's budget battles in Sacramento. Sotomayer is a breath of fresh air.

jkmora, you've got it all wrong. Republicans don't have a problem with Sotomayor being a wise latina. They're happy for her that she has accomplished so much despite her humble beginnings. What they don't like is anyone implying that someone is smarter or wiser about American law simply because of their race or gender. That is a racist statement. White men don't think they can do a better job because of their race or their gender, and they welcome people of all colors and both genders to the Supreme Court. But a judge HAS to make court decisions based on the law, not on personal experiences and not based their race or gender. Its important that this distinction be expressed.

[johnz52] Re: The White minority in So. Cal. Yes, people of color are the majority in numbers, but look at who is in power in the high rises. If you look at businesses or positions of power the vast majority of people in those positions are White. It's like in South Africa during the days of apartheid. White Afrikkans were scared out of their wits that native South African's would regain their power in THEIR homeland, so they engaged in atrocities to keep them down. This is what I see happening as the scales of power start tipping.

Mexichick- Bad Analogy. If you insist that people of color need to be in power, explain why Mexico is a corrupt mess. The mayor of L.A. is hispanic and white people vote for him. He does as good a job as any white mayor. Time to look in the mirror. Racism cuts both ways. Lets all get over it.


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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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