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Sotomayor hearings: Feinstein paints conservative jurists as ‘activist judges’

July 14, 2009 |  9:35 am

Feinstein Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) fired back at those who have sought to portray Judge Sonia Sotomayor as a judicial activist. Feinstein suggested, rather, that conservative members of the Supreme Court have been the real activists in discarding judicial precedents in recent years.

She cited the well-known discrimination case of Ricci vs. DeStefano, in which white firefighters sued New Haven, Conn., because they were denied promotions even though their test scores were higher than African American applicants.

Was it not true, she asked, that Sotomayor and her colleagues were following precedents set by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals? Yes, Sotomayor said.

In the Ricci case, Sotomayor was part of a panel that upheld New Haven’s actions. The case recently was overturned by the Supreme Court, which found for the white firefighters. In doing so, Feinstein said, the Supreme Court created a new judicial standard.

In essence, Feinstein was attempting to portray conservative justices the way others have characterized Sotomayor -- as activist judges.

Feinstein also said that Sotomayor has agreed with her Republican colleagues on the 2nd Circuit Court 98% of the time. With that track record, she asked, how can Sotomayor be portrayed as an activist?

-- Steve Padilla

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (L) makes her opening statement during the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee as Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) looks on July 13, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)