Sonia Sotomayor did the moonwalk away from her controversial statements at today’s confirmation hearing. Eva Rodriguez of the Washington Post provides a withering assessment of Sotomayor’s performance.
Sotomayor’s most quoted comment is, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male.” Under often very effective questioning by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she essentially disavowed her statement. She explained that she was trying to play off of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s assertion that a wise old man and a wise old woman should be able to reach the same conclusion in a case. “My play…fell flat,” Sotomayor said in response to Session’s question. “It was bad, because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that’s clearly not what I do as a judge.”
I wonder which of the five times she made the statement was she referring to at today’s hearing.
Here’s another disturbing exchange, in which Sessions asks about another of Sotomayor’s assertions in speeches that life experiences may affect a judge’s view of the facts in a case:
SOTOMAYOR: “It’s not a question of choosing to see some facts or another, Senator. I didn’t intend to suggest that. And in the wider context, what I believe I was — the point I was making was that our life experiences do permit us to see some facts and understand them more easily than others.”SESSIONS: “Do you stand by your statement that my experiences affect the facts I choose to see?”
SOTOMAYOR: “No, sir. I don’t stand by the understanding of that statement that I will ignore other facts or other experiences because I haven’t had them. I do believe that life experiences are important to the process of judging. They help you to understand and listen but that the law requires a result. And it would command you to the facts that are relevant to the disposition of the case.”
As for the second half of her response, I wish Sessions had followed up by asking how a jurist would determine the “relevant” facts in a case in light of Sotomayor’s assertion that life experiences can affect how a judge views a case.
Sotomayor’s initial response (“what I believe I was – the point I was making”) reeks of a nominee who’s been prepped exhaustively in how to deflect possibly damaging questions. Most people don’t have to recall what they “believe” they meant; they just say it.
Updated with video of Lindsey Graham taking Sotomayor to task.