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Sotomayor hearings: Curtain about to rise on Senate drama

July 13, 2009 |  6:02 am

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In about an hour, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin the confirmation hearing of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor has said that as a child she was captivated by Nancy Drew and "Perry Mason," and the drama that is expected to play out most of this week will feature its own large cast of characters. Two of the protagonists: Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who will try to safeguard the nominee, and Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who will lead the GOP attack on her nomination.

Then there’s the lead character herself, the 55-year-old, Bronx-born child of Puerto Rican parents who, if approved, would become the first Latina to join the high court. Even detractors acknowledge that her personal story — from housing project to Yale and beyond — is compelling.

This morning and throughout the week, The Ticket will live-blog the hearing, offering up news, commentary and analysis as long as each day's session is ongoing. We’ll also publish texts of the remarks delivered by senators, witnesses and, of course, Sotomayor as soon as they they become available.You also can follow along by subscribing free to our Twitter alerts on each new item. Click here or follow  @latimestot

For those tuning in now and then on television, here’s how the characters will be arrayed on stage. Leahy will be center stage, behind the panel’s long curving desk, with Sessions (appropriately) to his right. To Sessions' right will be the six other Republican senators, all men, all white. To Leahy’s left (again, appropriately) will be the 11 other Democrats — nine white men, two white women.

Sotomayor will sit at a table facing the senators. We’re guessing that behind her, somewhere in the audience, we’ll be able to spot her mother, Celina, whom Sotomayor credits for so much. When Obama nominated Sotomayor in May, she said of her mother: “I have often said I am who I am because of her, and I am only half the woman she is."

Most of today’s proceedings probably will be taken up by the senators as they deliver their opening statements. Sotomayor also will make an opening statement. The questioning and, presumably, any fireworks, will begin Tuesday. But you never know with this kind of historic political theater.

 -- Steve Padilla

Photo: Tim Sloan / AFP/Getty Images

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