New thread on Sotomayor confirmation hearings

Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings ended today. I hardly watched any of it on tv, but I got the highlights from David Waldman’s liveblogging at Congress Matters: Wednesday morning session, Wednesday afternoon session, Thursday morning session, and Thursday afternoon session.

On Wednesday Senator Chuck Grassley had a contentious exchange with Judge Sotomayor regarding a 1972 case on same-sex marriage. Tom Beaumont posted the transcript at the Des Moines Register site. Sotomayor read the case last night and answered more questions from Grassley about it today. I posted an excerpt from the transcript after the jump.

According to MSNBC reporter Norah O’Donnell, Grassley told her today that his constituents are “pretty unanimous against her,” referring to Sotomayor. On what basis can he make that claim? I don’t doubt that wingnuts have been working his phone lines, but I hope he doesn’t expect anyone to believe that Iowans overwhelmingly oppose the confirmation of this extremely intelligent and qualified judge.

Questioning of Sotomayor concluded this morning, and outside witnesses testified this afternoon. Republicans brought in New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci. His story has become a focal point for opponents of Sotomayor, because the Supreme Court recently found in his favor in a 5-4 decision that overruled a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision involving Sotomayor. (Of course, Sotomayor’s critics don’t acknowledge the bigger picture of her rulings in race-related cases.)

It turns out that Ricci’s quite the veteran of employment lawsuits. He sued the city of New Haven in 1995, claiming that he was discriminated against because of his dyslexia, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ricci also went to court to fight his 1998 dismissal from Middletown’s South Fire District. TPM-DC’s Brian Beutler observed,

[Ricci’s] views on jurisprudence seem to begin and end with the proposition that legal protections against discrimination are great when they work in his favor, and unconscionable when they don’t.

I don’t have a problem with people defending their rights in court, but Ricci was hardly the reluctant litigant some conservatives have made him out to be. Also, it’s worth noting that whether or not Ricci was treated unfairly, the position Sotomayor took in the Ricci case

is an act of judicial restraint. The Second Circuit panel, which included Judge Sonia Sotomayor, deferred to a decision of the elected officials of the City of New Haven. Whether the decision was correct or incorrect, it was decidedly the opposite of judicial activism.

In fact, the five conservative Supreme Court judges who overturned the lower court ruling in Ricci were engaging in judicial activism.

Share any thoughts about the confirmation process in this thread. How many Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to confirm Sotomayor?

UPDATE: MyDD user bruh3 has a good response to Grassley’s line of questioning on that 1972 decision. and it’s just a guess, is that Grassley has been hearing from a lot of evangelicals about gay marriage in recent months. They were already mad at him last year for questioning the tax-exempt status of some televangelists. Then Grassley’s reaction to the Varnum v Brien decision was found wanting by many Iowa social conservatives. I suspect he wanted to make a show of grilling Judge Sotomayor on this issue.

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Sotomayor confirmation hearings thread

I only watched a small part of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings today. I lost patience after 10 or 15 minutes of Senator Orrin Hatch asking the same questions over and over, even though she’d answered them the first time.

David Waldman liveblogged the hearings for Congress Matters. Click here for the morning session and here for the afternoon session. Waldman provided a bonus post with video of one low point: “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, complete with his best Foghorn Leghorn stammer, reaches astonishing new levels of asshattery.”

Talking Points Memo compared Senator Lindsey Graham’s aggressive questioning today with his “obsequious” use of his time for questioning Judge Sam Alito. In 2006,

[Graham] took his allotted time as an opportunity to apologize to Mrs. Alito, who was upset by what was perceived to be overly tough questioning of her husband […].

Click here for video clips of Graham.

I read that Senator Chuck Grassley got a laugh out of the room in a strange way. An anti-abortion heckler disrupted the hearings during Grassley’s questioning time. After the man had been escorted from the room, Grassley said, “People always say I have the ability to turn people on.” It reminded me of Grassley’s somewhat off-color remark to Senator Kent Conrad during a Budget Committee meeting in March.

This thread is for any comments about Tuesday’s hearings or Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation in general.

UPDATE: Hilarious diary by Daily Kos user Upper West on “Sotomayor’s Woody Allen/Marshall McLuhan Moment.”

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Grassley lectures Sotomayor on judge's role

UPDATE: Sotomayor discussed her judicial philosophy in her opening statement to the committee. Talking Points Memo posted excerpts from all the senators’ opening statements.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings today, and Radio Iowa has Senator Chuck Grassley’s opening statement. He gave quite the lecture about “judicial restraint” as opposed to “President Obama’s ’empathy’ standard.”

An excerpt is after the jump, along with some analysis of Grassley’s selective concern about empathy and so-called activist judges.

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Grassley keeps role at Finance, will move to Judiciary in 2011

The Hill reported today that Senator Chuck Grassley has reached an agreement with his colleague Jeff Sessions of Alabama:

Under terms of the deal, Sessions will serve as ranking member [of the Senate Judiciary Committee] until the 112th Congress, when he will take over the ranking member post on the Senate Budget Committee. Current Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is retiring at the end of the 111th Congress.

Grassley, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, will then become ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

It’s a good deal for Grassley. Even though the Judiciary Committee will consider at least one Supreme Court nominee before 2011, the Senate Finance Committee will help write important health care and tax legislation this year.

The ranking member position at Judiciary became open when Senator Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic Party last week.

I’m not sure it’s good for the Republican Party to have Sessions as their public face during confirmation hearings. In 1986 the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to confirm him as a U.S. district court judge for various reasons. But if they want to reinforce their image as a regional party for white southerners, that’s ok by me.

UPDATE: Like Chase Martyn at Iowa Independent, I neglected to mention that Grassley faces re-election in 2010. I’m sorry to say that I see little prospect of him losing any election in Iowa. In any event, the deal he struck with Sessions removes any doubt about whether Grassley plans to retire before the next election. No chance with a crack at being ranking member of Judiciary beginning in 2011.

For a long time my money’s been on Grassley retiring in 2016, when his grandson, State Representative Pat Grassley, will be old enough to run for the U.S. Senate.

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