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. As expected, Republicans brought in New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci.

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

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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 today'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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Sotomayor confirmation hearings thread

So, who watched Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings today?

In case you missed it, Oliver Willis posted the complete transcript of Sotomayor's opening statement.

Talking Points Memo posted excerpts from all the senators' opening statements. Chuck Grassley (R, IA) gave her quite the lecture about "judicial restraint" as opposed to "President Obama's 'empathy' standard." I don't recall any of the Senate Republicans being concerned when Judge Sam Alito acknowledged during his confirmation hearings that he thinks about his own family's experiences when considering immigration or discrimination cases.

Like many of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley referenced the infamous "wise Latina" remark. I can't help but notice that Judge Sotomayor's critics quote almost exclusively from her speeches rather than from the more than 3,000 rulings she has written or joined. None of them acknowledge the real picture of her record in nearly 100 race-related cases.

As for Grassley's concerns about "judicial restraint,"Big Tent Democrat (a constitutional lawyer) shows in this post that the Ricci decision

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.

On the contrary, the five conservative Supreme Court judges who overturned the lower court ruling in Ricciwere engaging in judicial activism.

Senator Arlen Specter showed up several hours late now that he's a low-ranking Democrat instead of the ranking Republican on the committee. He then complained that the Supreme Court is not hearing enough cases. Mr. desmoinesdem is much more of a SCOTUS-watcher than I am, and he says it's reasonable to suggest that the court could take on more cases, but it's ridiculous to hold up the Burger court as the standard (which Specter does). According to Mr. desmoinesdem, the Burger court was practically breaking down near the end because of the crushing caseload, which is why Rehnquist scaled things back when he became chief justice.

This thread is for any thoughts about Sotomayor's confirmation or highlights from today's hearings.

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Poster child for Sotomayor critics has litigious history

Republicans plan to have New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci testify during Judge Sonia Sotomayor's upcoming confirmation hearings. Ricci's 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.

Dahlia Lithwick concluded at Slate,

Ultimately, there are two ways to frame Frank Ricci's penchant for filing employment discrimination complaints: Perhaps he was repeatedly victimized by a cruel cadre of employers, first for his dyslexia, then again for his role as a whistle-blower, and then a third time for just being white. [...]

The other way to look at Frank Ricci is as a serial plaintiff--one who reacts to professional slights and setbacks by filing suit, threatening to file suit, and more or less complaining his way up the chain of command.

Or as 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.

My hunch is that we won't hear much about Ricci's litigious history during the cable tv coverage of the Sotomayor hearings.

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Grassley: Sotomayor not as "aggressive" or "obnoxious" as he expected

I found some unintentional comedy in this AP story on Judge Sonia Sotomayor's one-on-one meetings with senators:

Sotomayor has managed to disarm even senators who came prepared not to like her. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, went in thinking "she would be aggressive and maybe even a little obnoxious."

"I would classify her as kind of much friendlier ... more reserved, less aggressive," than he expected, Grassley told reporters later.

I wonder why Grassley thought Sotomayor would be "aggressive and maybe even a little obnoxious." Would he expect that of any high-achieving Puerto Rican woman from New York, or only one who had been on the receiving end of a hatchet job in The New Republic? Or maybe he was taken in by right-wing commentators' caricatures of Sotomayor.

Anyway, it's safe to say that Sotomayor's personality wasn't the reason Grassley voted against her confirmation to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. He'll have to keep trying to remember why he cast that vote in 1998.

By the way, the Democrat who's running against Grassley next year, Bob Krause, has his campaign website up and is on Twitter @KrauseForIowa. He plans to campaign hard against Grassley's opposition to universal health care with a public option.

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