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Sotomayor hearings: A guide to who’s who on the Senate panel

July 14, 2009 |  9:09 am


So far, Sonia Sotomayor has fielded questions from Sens. Patrick Leahy, Herb Kohl, Jeff Sessions and Orrin Hatch. Here’s a quick review of what’s been asked so far — and what is likely to come later from the 19 members of the Judiciary Committee.

Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.)
The chairman of the panel came out swinging at critics who have “caricatured” Judge Sonia Sotomayor; he positioned himself as her principal defender.

Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)
Kohl called for candor in the hearings and said he was interested in learning more about the judge’s personal life and views.

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
The ranking Republican on the committee told Sotomayor Monday that he would ask her about the “wise Latina” speech she gave in 2001 to ascertain whether she “can dispense justice without bias or prejudice.” He did so this morning.

Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Supreme Court justices are not “merely umpires calling balls and strikes,” said California’s senior senator Monday, but individuals who enrich the court with their own experiences.

Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah)
Hatch said he hoped the hearings provide an understanding of Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy. In interviews before today’s hearings, he raised concerns about the judge’s record on 2nd Amendment issues. Today, he asked her about her involvement in Maloney vs. Cuomo, in which Sotomayor joined an opinion that upheld New York state law banning nun chucks.

Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.)
He likely will highlight the nominee’s judicial record to show that she is not biased because of her ethnic heritage, as some critics have claimed.

Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa)
Grassley indicated he will question Sotomayor about a past speech in which she doubted that a judge could ever be truly impartial.

Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)
The state’s senior senator will emphasize Sotomayor’s record of decisions, which he called “extensive and evenhanded.”

Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)
Kyl will question Sotomayor on her views on international law to determine whether she might look to foreign laws for guidance on novel legal questions.

Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.)
Durbin indicated he would ask Sotomayor whether she would uphold past precedents.

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Graham, who said the hearing would be less about ethnicity and more about “liberal and conservative politics,” suggested Sotomayor’s confirmation was inevitable and that the hearing was largely an exercise in partisan debate.

Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.)
Cardin said he looked forward to hearing Sotomayor’s opinion of “protections in our Constitution for women, our environment and consumers, as well as voting rights, privacy and separation of church and state.”

John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Cornyn will question Sotomayor about statements that suggested to him that she might “invent rights that do not exist in our written Constitution.”

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
Whitehouse told Sotomayor he would “look for a simple pledge" from her during the hearings, "that you will respect the role of Congress as representatives the American people.”

Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Coburn will likely try to draw her out over issues about the interpretation of the Constitution.

Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Klobuchar may ask Sotomayor to explain the ways her background and perspective have been an asset as a judge.

Edward E. Kaufman (D-Del.)
Kaufman said he will spend time asking about Sotomayor’s experience as a commercial litigator, her handling of business cases as a trial judge and on the court of appeals and her approach to business cases.

Arlen Specter (D-Pa.)
Specter said that he would ask Sotomayor her opinion on allowing television cameras in the Supreme Court — something her predecessor, David H. Souter, strongly opposed.

Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Franken told Sotomayor that he wanted to hear her views on judicial restraint and activism in the context of issues sich as voting rights and open access to the Internet and campaign finance reform.

— Kate Linthicum

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Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (L), questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor during the second day of her confirmation hearings as are committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (2nd L), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) (2nd R) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) listen July 14, 2009 in Washington, DC. Sotomayor faces a full day of questioning from Senators on the committee today. Sotomayor, now an appeals court judge and U.S. President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, will become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court if confirmed. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)