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Sotomayor hearings: Kohl touches on abortion, cameras

July 14, 2009 |  8:39 am


Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) briefly touched on abortion, which has not been expected to dominate the proceedings. And in her answer, Sonia Sotomayor made it clear: Roe vs. Wade is settled law, and she believes the Constitution ensures a right to privacy, both in the 4th and in the 14th Amendments.

Does this mean she is in favor of abortion rights? Of course, we don’t know that. Kohl did not ask, nor did Sotomayor say.

Kohl also asked her how she feels about cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court, since she has experimented with cameras in her own U.S. Court of Appeals.

 “I have had positive experiences with cameras,” said Sotomayor.

She then caused a little outburst of laughter when she added, “Perhaps it would be useful if I would explain to you my approach to collegiality in the court.”

Sotomayor basically sent reassurances to the members of the high court that she would not barge in with lights and recording equipment, even if she favors televising the court’s sessions.

 “I go in and I try to share my experiences, share my thoughts and to be collegial and come to a conclusion together. And I can assure you that if this august body gives me the privilege of becoming a justice of the Supreme Court that I will follow that practice with respect to all issues of procedures on the court, including the question of cameras in the court.”

However, she added with a laugh, “I was a pretty good litigator, and when I worked hard to try to convince my colleagues about something … ”

Kohl asked her about whether she’d support term limits for Supreme Court judges, who receive lifetime appointments, so that “judges don’t become victims of a cloistered ivory tower existence.” (Is it just us, or does the word “victim” seem out of place here? How about “beneficiaries” instead?)

She demurred on whether term limits are a good thing, but she didn't seem to mind the lifetime appointment deal. After all, she said, she’s got a judge friend who, into his 90s, was not just learning about the Internet but was also teaching much younger colleagues how to use it.

“I can only note there was a purpose to the structure of our Constitution, and it was the view of the Founding Fathers that they wanted justices that would not be subject to political whims or the emotions of the moment,” said Sotomayor. “There is wisdom that comes to judges that helps them over time. I think in the end, it’s a question of what structure our government is best served by. I do think there is value in the services of judges for long periods of time.”

— Robin Abcarian

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Photo: Sonia Sotomayor faces senators and photographers. Credit: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press