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Sen. Patrick Leahy Holds a Hearing on the Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to Be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

At the same time, as a prosecutor in that case, I had to consider how to ensure that the presentation of that case would be fully understood by jurors. And to do that, it was important for us as prosecutors to be able to present those number of incidences that Mr. Maddicks had engaged in, in one trial, so the full extent of his conduct could be determined by a jury.

SOTOMAYOR: There had never been a case quite like that, where an individual who used different acrobatic feats to gain entry into an apartment was tried with all of his crimes in one indictment. I researched very carefully the law and found a theory in New York law, called the Molyneax (ph) theory then, that -- that basically said if you can show a pattern that established a person's identity or assisted in establishing a person's identity -- simplifying the argument, by the way -- then you can try different cases together.

This was not a conspiracy under law because Mr. Maddicks acted alone. So I had to find a different theory to bring all his acts together. Well, a presented that to the trial judge. It was a different application of the law. But what I did was draw on the principles of the Molyneax (ph) theory. And arguing those principles to the judge, the judge permitted that joint trial of all of Mr. Maddox's activities.

In the end, carefully developing the facts in the case, making my record -- our record, I should say -- Mr. Moe's (ph) and my record complete -- we convinced the judge that our theory was supported by law.

That harkens back to my earlier answer which is that's what being a trial judge teaches you.

LEAHY: And you -- so you see it from both ends having, obviously, to a novel theory and now a theory that is well established in the law but was novel at that time. But you also, as a trial judge, you've seen theories brought in by prosecutors or by defense and you have to make your decisions based on those.

The fairly easy answer to that is you do, do you not?

SOTOMAYOR: Well, it's important to remember that, as a judge, I don't make law. And so the task for me as a judge is not to accept or not accept new theories; it's to decide whether the law, as it exists, has principles that apply to new situations.

LEAHY: Let's go into that because I -- you know, obviously, the Tarzan case is -- was unique at least. And as I said, Mr. Morgenthal singled that out as an example of the kind of lawyer you are.

And I find compelling your story about being in the apartment. I've stood in homes at three o'clock in the morning as they're carrying the body out from a murder. I can understand how you're feeling. But in applying the law and applying the facts, you told me once that, ultimately and completely, the law is what controls.

And I was struck by that when you did. And so there's been a great deal of talk about the Ricci case -- Ricci v. DeStephano. And you and two other judges were assigned this appeal involving firefighters in New Haven. The plaintiffs were challenging the decision to voluntarily discard the result of a paper-and-pencil test to measure leadership abilities.

LEAHY: Now, the legal issue that was presented to you in that case was not a new one, not in your circuit. In fact, there was a unanimous decade's old Supreme Court decision as well. In addition, in 1991, Congress acted to reinforce (inaudible) the law.

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