July 15th, 2009
11:34 AM ET
5 years ago

Sotomayor: Judges have different task than what citizens expect

 Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said Wednesday that she could not respond to questions with specific circumstances of a case.
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said Wednesday that she could not respond to questions with specific circumstances of a case.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Under persistent questioning on her personal views on abortion and gun control, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor repeatedly avoided direct answers Wednesday by saying she needed the specific circumstances of a case in order to respond.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma pushed Sotomayor to express her opinions on whether certain abortions would be legal and whether a person has a fundamental right to possess firearms and a right to self-defense. Each time, Sotomayor said would need to know the specifics of a particular case, such as applicable state statutes and other facts.

Sensing Coburn 's frustration over her responses, she offered an explanation.

"What we do is different than the conversations citizens have about what they want the law to do," Sotomayor said on the third day of her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

Judges look at the facts of a case and apply the law based on those facts, she said.

"It's not that we make a broad policy choice and say this is what we want," she continued.

Throughout the hearing, conservative Republicans have criticized what they call activist judges seeking to change the law to push a liberal agenda. Democrats have responded with criticism of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for consistently supporting Republican positions in his opinions, which they called judicial activism.

Sotomayor has consistently responded to questions about her judicial philosophy by saying she is guided by the Constitution and judicial precedents.


Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (114 Responses)
  1. AXH

    As a Hispanic woman, I'm against Judge Sotomayor as a Justice for the Supreme Court. Her record speaks volumes on what she truly believes not this show she's putting on. Just wait when she's on the bench and doling out these viewpoints.

    My vote is NO!

    July 15, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. Joe

    Man, some of these bloggers that back the firefighters not getting promoted should really listen to what they are saying. The advent that a physical abilities test should out weigh a written one is very dangerous. How can you perform your job without reading the signs, manuals, or performing CPR. If you have no idea how to read a manual, understand, and comply with operational and functional checks on your SCBA gear how are you going to fight a fire?? Second you make it sound like all African American and minority fire fighters are illiterate and ignorant; but they sure can carry a fighter hose. How bout that you just sent the equal rights back to the stone age.

    July 15, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Marc

    PFFFT – Do you have any ideas of how many rulings of the SCOTUS sounds today as pure bigotry, racism at its core and clearly 'unconstitucional'? A tip, the marriage of the current president of the USA's parents was, according to some of this shameful rulings, against the 'law of men and God'...
    The law is blind, you mean the Justice is blind since the laws are made by people that consider what THEY BELIEVE is necessary at the moment. Wasn't that what happened back at the early days of Rock and roll when some cities made law banning the 'Devil's Music'?
    Justice is blind, which is why EVERY case is a different case, has its particularities and cannot fall on general interpretations of the law.

    Sniffit – Thanks for pointing out all the mistakes on Rod's post. Rod, what you're saying is, at best, PURE REVERSE DISCRIMINATION!!!!

    July 15, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. johnnie

    It is amazing how the (GOP) is so (DUMB) the election was just back in (2008) the (REPUBLICAN PARTY) is polling at an (all time low) most people are afraid to say they are (republicans) Yet Tom Colbern and Graham ,Sessions, and the rest of whats left (arizona senator). Attack this nominee (Judge Sotomayor) as if they are still in (POWER).They have lost their (gop) minds, the hispanic vote ,is the largest growing group in america, and they will become more (NULL AND VOID). What do they think , it is not the (REAGAN ERA)

    July 15, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. ek

    First the GOP claims Sotomayor is an "activist" judge who uses the judiciary to make "policy" decisions and advance a "liberal agenda." Then, they complain that she is being "vague" for refusing make policy judgments and for insisting that she is not in a position to provide answers without knowing what the facts are and what the relevant laws are. It's been clear that the Republican judiciary members already had their minds made up about her, and that nothing she could say would change their opinions. What a farce!

    July 15, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Lemme ask you all this

    Would you want a Justice on the SCOTUS who has preconcieved agendas to sit on the highest bench?

    I hope the answer is no.

    Judges are professionals and as such have the ability to perform their duties independently of their personal feelings. This is one of the harmarks of a professional.

    July 15, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. jason

    "The "latina woman" comment, the all womans club membership call into question her personal bias regarding race and gender."

    how soon we have forgotten that justice samuel alito sits on SCOTUS after membership in "concerned alumni of princeton," and touting his membership in that group to obtain a job in the reagan administration. why is membership in an all women club disqualifying, while membership in a group that advocates admitting only white males to princeton is to be glorified?

    July 15, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  8. Republicans= Party of NO (with no solution)

    To AntiRush:

    Good point. If these rethugs weren't so ignorant, they would understand that. But as you can see, they are complete morons.

    July 15, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Fred

    there have been a number of interesting things happen in the hearings.....most of all, I now fully understand why a REPUB MAJORITY refused to approve Repub Sen. Jeff Sessions as a Federal Judge...

    yes I know about his racist past, and his miss steps as a lawyer, but the man does not even know how to ask a basic question..how could he ever make a reasonable decision???...

    But the most strange thing Sen. Sessions says is what is a unanimous decision..In cases where the court rules 5 to 4 in a case...IT IS NOT A UNANIMOUS DECISION.....it is only a unanimous decision if "agreeing completely united in opinion" Webster's Third Addition"...and the bad news Senator is that your saying it was a unanimous decision will not change it...

    If he is the PRIDE of Alabama..they are in a lot deeper trouble than they know...

    July 15, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  10. Kate in San Diego

    I have been amazed at the lack of understanding of the court process displayed by the committee members. They have no idea what the differences are between the trial court, the appellate courts, and the Supreme Court. It is disheartening to say the least. Did they all forget their civics classes? And aren't some of them at least nominally lawyers? Jeff Sessions in particular seemed to have no clue, causing the nominee to have to spend more time than she should have explaining how the system works in order to properly answer the questions. It was just sad.

    July 15, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  11. bonnie

    Gary, I guess you are a white man. Test are made to be cheated on. I can guarantee that if you give it once someone have a copy for their friends. History has it that test has been used to screen similar to poll tax. I haven't heard from the black fire fighters. I bet they didn't ask for any special favors. Like a good stupid black person who has just be dupped we move on. Tell me how do you know when you take a test that someone didn't cheat. Do you know how long blacks has passed test and been told that they didn't. I don't like discrimination under any circumstances, I do think that there should be a better way for firefighters to qualify individuals for promotions. I think the supreme court don't have a clue. As I said before how can you prove things done while drinking a beer after work or sitting around the pool on the weekends. You can! so we move on.

    July 15, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. dg houston

    yes yes yes another obama screw up.. she is not he one, taking more of our freedoms away, with no guns and mudering babys. she wont answer cause she cant tell the truth...just like a liberal...lies...lies...and more lies

    July 15, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  13. Peejay

    The Republicans are shooting blanks – Sotomayor isn't going to melt down! Just confirm her and get to work before your recess, little boys.

    July 15, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Jim in San Mateo

    Those republicans should be careful. Every women's and Hispanic's group is taking notes. They come very close to going over the line and no doubt they will before this is over.

    July 15, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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