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Sotomayor hearings: Sessions not buying judge's explanation

July 14, 2009 |  7:24 am


Things got a little testy when Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican, challenged Sonia Sotomayor on her previous statements about how the “biases, sympathies and prejudices” of a judge will affect her decisions.

But first, he wanted to acknowledge her response to Patrick Leahy about the “wise Latina” comment.

“Had you been saying that with clarity over the last decade or 15 years,” said Sessions, “we’d have a lot fewer problems today.”

He went on: “You have suggested that a judge’s background and experience will impact their decision, which goes against the American ideal that a judge will be fair to every party, and every day when they put on that robe they will put aside their personal prejudices.”

Sotomayor kept her cool as Sessions pressed her on the famous statement she made to a group of students at Duke University that appellate court judges make policy.

“The job of Congress is to decide what policy should be for society,” said Sotomayor. “I was focusing on what district court judges do and what circuit court judges do. District court judges find the facts and their finding doesn’t bind anybody else. Appellate judges establish precedent … that precedent has policy ramifications because it binds not just the litigants in that case, but it binds litigants in cases that may be influenced by that precedent. If my speech is heard outside the few minutes that YouTube presents … it is very clear I was talking about the policy ramifications of precedent.”

Sessions was not buying it. “Judge, I don’t think it’s that clear.”

-- Robin Abcarian

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Photo: Sonia Sotomayor speaks during the second day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on her Supreme Court nomination.  Credit: Michael Reynolds / EPA