Sotomayor Pledges 'Fidelity to the Law'
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, making her first substantive public statement in seven weeks, offered a brief defense today against criticisms from conservatives that she would come to the Supreme Court with biases for particular litigants.
Sotomayor, speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee and to a nationwide broadcast, did not entirely back away from speeches in which she has spoken about the influence of a judge's personal background. But she said that her own experiences merely allow her to listen when others would not, and that her rulings would still depend on the law, precedent, and Congress' intent.
"The process of judging is enhanced when the arguments and concerns of the parties to the litigation are understood and acknowledged," Sotomayor said during an eight-minute statement.
"That is why I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then by explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected," she added. "That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system. My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case."
Sotomayor spoke in a much more serious tone than she used while visiting senators on Capitol Hill over the last several weeks. She smiled only occasionally for example, while talking about her role in ending the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike and focused instead on reading her prepared text nearly word-for-word.
Either by design or not, her statement alluded to several questions that have circulated around her nomination: What did she mean when she said that a "wise Latina" judge could often reach a better decision than a white male judge? Does a judge's background affect his or her rulings? And why does she write her opinions in a way that some lawyers consider exceedingly cautious and detailed?
Sotomayor also noted that she has so far met with 89 of the 100 senators. Many, she said, asked about her judicial philosophy. "It is simple: fidelity to the law," she told senators. "The task of a judge is not to make the law it is to apply the law."
Her statement came at the end of the first day of Sotomayor's confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court seat vacated by retired Justice David Souter. It followed four hours of statements from senators who were often equally vague in describing how judges should come to their decisions.
Attention will turn to specific cases Tuesday, when the committee reconvenes at 9:30 a.m. EDT to begin questioning Sotomayor.
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