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Sotomayor hearings: Judicial temperament -- or temperamental?

July 15, 2009 |  7:39 am

Cardin Benjamin Cardin, trying to counter comments made Tuesday about Sonia Sotomayor’s behavior and demeanor on the bench, quoted surveys of lawyers praising her work as a judge.

A sampling: “She is good.... She is bright.... She is smart...frighteningly smart.... An exceptional judge overall.”

Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, was clearly trying to deflect remarks by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who on Tuesday cited other comments by lawyers, who took a drastically different view of Sotomayor.

Those lawyers characterized her as hot tempered, impatient and a bully. Graham even suggested the remarks might prompt Sotomayor to reflect on her behavior on the bench.

Not mentioned was that Sotomayor was recently deemed "well qualified" to serve on the Supreme Court by an American Bar Assn. panel -- the highest rating the national attorney organization bestows.

This morning, Sotomayor responded to Cardin by saying that lawyers who argue before her know “how engaged I become” in the proceedings. She allowed that her passion “can appear tough to some people.”

She added some judges never ask questions. (She didn’t name him, but Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is famous for almost never asking questions from the bench.) Her style, she said, is different.

-- Steve Padilla

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Photo: Sen. Benjamin Cardin in a June photo as he addressed journalists in Sarajevo. Credit: Hidajet Delic / Associated Press

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