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Sotomayor hearings: Summing up nominee's opening remarks

July 13, 2009 | 12:17 pm


The opening statement prepared by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, with input, no doubt, from the White House, attempted to achieve several things in a bid to solidify support and defuse expected GOP attacks. Here's a breakdown:

1) She has a compelling life story. "The progression of my life has been uniquely American."

2) She has a wide variety of professional experience. "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."

3) She can be tough on crime while being empathetic. "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."

4) She was first appointed to the federal district court by a Republican -- George H.W. Bush.

5) She likes baseball -- she helped settle the baseball strike of 1994-95.

6) She cares about the "little guy" -- again a variation on "empathy":  "I have witnessed the human consequences of my decisions."

7) But empathy doesn't mean she puts her thumb on the scale: "Those decisions have not been made to serve the interests of any one litigant, but to serve the larger interest of impartial justice."

8) Look at her record, not her speeches: "My record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution."

9) She's even-handed, even dogmatic, in the way she writes opinions, and this helps her be impartial. "That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith and the impartiality of our justice system."

10) This is a history-making appointment. (Are you listening, Republicans?) "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."

The Senate Judiciary Committee just recessed until Tuesday. Why not keep going? Consider it a carefully planned product roll-out. Sotomayor's remarks end the day and will lead any news story about the hearings. A tough question-and-answer sequence might have resulted in a different result.

That, of course, will all come Tuesday.

-- James Oliphant

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Photo: Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor hugs her mother, Celina Sotomayor, and stepfather Omar Lopez after finishing the first day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images