Sen. Patrick Leahy Holds a Hearing on the Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to Be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
Tuesday, July 14, 2009; 10:17 AM
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SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Good morning, everybody.
Just so we can understand what's going on, I'm not sure whether we have votes or not today. To the extent if we do have votes, to the extent that we can keep the hearing going during votes and have different senators leave between them, we will. If we can't, then I will recess for those votes.
I will also have -- I guess we're one minute early here. With the way the traffic was today, I think some people are still having trouble getting in here. I talked with Senator Sessions about this -- excuse me -- and what we're going to do is have 30-minute rounds. We will go back and forth between -- between sides. And we will -- senators will be recognized based on seniority if they're there. If not, then we'll go to -- we'll go to the next person.
And with that, as I said yesterday when we concluded, and now the American people finally have heard from Judge Sotomayor, and I appreciate your opening statement yesterday. You've had weeks of silence. You have followed the traditional way of nominees. I think you've visited more senators than any nominee I know of for just about any position.
But the -- we get used to the traditional, the press is outside, questions are asked, you give a nice wave and keep going. But finally you're able to speak, and I think your statement yesterday went a long way to answering the critic and the naysayers.
And so we're going to start with the questions here. I would hope that everybody will keep their questions pertaining to you and to your background as a judge. You're going to be the first Supreme Court nominee in more than 50 years who served as a federal trial court judge, the first in 50 years to have served as both a federal trial court and a federal appellate court judge.
Let me ask you the obvious one. What are the qualities that a judge should possess. I mean, you've had time on both the trial court and the appellate court. What qualities should a judge have and how does that experience you've had -- how does that shape your approach -- your approach to being on the bench?
JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: Senator Leahy, yesterday, many of the senators emphasized that their -- the values they thought were important for judging, and central to many of their comments was the fact that a judge had to come to the process understanding the importance and respect the Constitution must receive in the judging process and an understanding that that respect is guided by, and should be guided by, a full appreciation of the limited jurisdiction of the court in our system of government, but understanding its importance as well.
That is the central part of judging. What my experiences on the trial court and the appellate court have reinforced for me is that the process of judging is a process of keeping an open mind. It's the process of not coming to a decision with a pre-judgment ever of an outcome and that reaching a conclusion has to start with understanding what the parties are arguing, but examining in all situations carefully the facts as they prove them or not prove them, the record as they create it, and then making a decision that is limited to what the law says on the facts before the judge.
LEAHY: Well, you -- let's go into some of the particulars on this. One of the things that I found appealing in your record, that you were a prosecutor, as many of us, both the ranking member and I had that privilege, and you worked on the front lines, an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan D.A.'s office.
Your former boss, District Attorney Robert Morgenthal, the dean of the American Prosecutors, said one of the most important cases you worked on was the prosecution of the man known as the Tarzan Burglar. He terrorized people in Harlem. He would swing on ropes into their apartments and rob them and steal, and actually killed three people.