Comments Following Meeting with Judge Sonia Sotomayor

I was delighted to have the chance to see Judge Sotomayor, again.  I have come to know her fairly well during her years of service on the Second Circuit, the Circuit covering Vermont, New York and Connecticut.

I noted when my friend from New Hampshire announced his retirement how much I have admired Justice Souter’s commitment to justice and the rule of law rather than to ideology. Like Justice Souter, Judge Sotomayor has a first-rate legal mind and impeccable credentials.  Her experience as a trial court judge will be important; only Justice Souter of those currently on the Supreme Court previously served as a trial court judge.  She has the added benefit of having been in law enforcement as a prosecutor who received her early training in the office of the longtime and storied New York District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau.  

I appreciate that she has shown restraint as a judge.  We do not need another Supreme Court Justice intent on second guessing Congress, undercutting laws passed to benefit Americans and to protect their liberties, and making light of judicial precedent.

Senator Sessions suggested to the President that it was important to nominate someone with a judicial record.  Judge Sotomayor has more judicial experience than any nominee in recent history.  She has a working understanding of the law at every level.

I wanted someone outside the judicial monastery, and whose experiences were not limited to those in the rarified air of the federal appellate courts.  Her background as someone who was largely raised by a working mother in the South Bronx, who has never forgotten where she came from, mean a great deal to me.

Whether you are from the South Bronx, the south side of Chicago or South Burlington, the American Dream inspires all of us.  Her life story IS the American Dream.   And so is the journey of the President who nominated her.

Some pressure groups have said they are ‘spoiling for a fight’ and have attacked the nominee, unfairly calling her racist and bigoted.  I know Sonia Sotomayor, and nothing could be further from the truth.  These are some of the same people who vilify Justice Souter and Justice O’Connor.  Americans deserve better.   I hope all Senators will join and work with me to fulfill our constitutional duties with respect.

I am consulting with Senator Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, about our schedule for hearings and considering the nomination.  We have the benefit of her judicial record being public and well known to us.  We have the benefit of her record having been a subject of review for the last month, since at least May 1, when she was mentioned as a leading candidate to succeed Justice Souter.

I would hope that Judge Sotomayor’s historic nomination will be treated as fairly as the nomination of John Roberts was treated by the Senate.  In that case, just four years ago, I agreed to schedule a hearing to begin 48 days after he was designated.  Chief Justice Roberts was confirmed 72 days after he was named even though he was renominated in the course of our consideration.

Given the attacks on Judge Sotomayor’s character, I do not think it fair to delay her hearing and her opportunity to respond to her critics.   The hearing is also the opportunity for all Senators on the Judiciary Committee, both Republicans and Democrats, to ask questions, raise concerns and evaluate the nomination.

President Obama is to be commended for having consulted with Senators from both sides of the aisle.  Yesterday we received the formal nomination.  Now the Senate needs to proceed. I hope that all Senators work with me to move forward to consider this nomination in a fair and timely way.

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