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Sotomayor hearings: Charles Schumer defines 'empathy'

July 14, 2009 |  1:20 pm


Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who presented Judge Sonia Sotomayor to his colleagues on Monday, took them to task just now (at least the Republican ones) for focusing on a few lines from her speeches, rather than her judicial decisions.

“No colleague has pointed to a single case in which you have attempted to change existing law or otherwise,” said Schumer, who said he would spend his time talking about her decisions, not her speeches, to prove that she is not guided by her heart, but by the law.

“From everything I’ve read and everything I’ve heard you say, you put rule of law first,” Schumer said. “I want to put it on the record.

“I want to talk to you about what ‘empathy’ means. I believe that empathy is the opposite of indifference, the opposite of, say, having ice water in your veins,  rather than the opposite of neutrality, and I think that’s the mistaken concept that some of you have used,” he said, addressing fellow committee members.

To Sotomayor, he said, “Will you commit to us today that you will give every litigant before the court a fair shake, and not let your sympathies toward any litigant overrule what the law requires?”

Sotomayor was brief: “That commitment I make, and I have made for 17 years.”

-- Robin Abcarian

Sen.Charles Schumer (D-NY) (R) makes his opening statement during the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 13, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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