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Sotomayor hearings: Talk about judicial restraint

July 13, 2009 |  9:39 am

Coburn Imagine for a moment you are Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

In your New York courtroom, you are lord and master -- and you can speak anytime you wish and interrupt lawyers at will.

Now, imagine having to sit here in Hart 216 for -- now, it's going on two hours -- not being able to respond when senators criticize or attack your record, as they question your judgment, your neutrality, your view of the law. It must be odd.

Sotomayor will get her chance, of course. For days. But it's not an easy thing for anyone trained in argument, as Sotomayor is, to sit quietly and simply take it.

Take Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who, without explicitly saying it, does not seem to believe Sotomayor can be a neutral judge. "The thing that binds us together is an innate trust that you can have fair and impartial judgment in this country." he said. "I am concerned with some of your statements. I don't know if the statements were made to be provocative or truly heartfelt for what you have said."

"Your judicial philosophy might be inconsistent with a partial neutral arbiter," said Coburn, who is unlikely to vote for Sotomayor regardless. "You must prove to the Senate you will adhere to the proper role of a judge."

Sotomayor will get to respond -- soon. But first, just a few more senators to go.

-- James Oliphant

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Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 13, 2009, during the committee's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)