Sen. Kohl Questions Judge Sonia Sotomayor During Her Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

CQ Transcriptions
Tuesday, July 14, 2009; 11:09 AM

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SEN. HERB KOHL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and good morning, Judge Sotomayor.

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: Good morning.

KOHL: Senator Sessions has spent a great deal of time on the New Haven case, and so I would like to see if we can't put it into some perspective. Isn't it true that Ricci was a very close case? Isn't it true that 11 of the 22 judges the reviewed the case did agree with you and that it was only reversed by the Supreme Court by a one-vote 5-4 margin?

So, do you agree, Judge, that it was a close case and that reasonable minds could have seen it in one way or another and not be seen as prejudiced or unable or -- unable to make a clear decision?

SOTOMAYOR: To the extent that reasonable minds can differ on any case, that's true, as to what the legal conclusion should be in a case. But the panel, at least as the case was presented to itself, was relying on the reasonable views that Second Circuit precedent had established.

And so, to the extent that one as a judge adheres to precedence, because it is that which guides and gives stability to the law, then those reasonable minds who decided the precedent and the judges who apply it are coming to the legal conclusion they think the facts and law require.

KOHL: All right. Judge, we've heard several of our colleagues now, particularly on the other side, criticize you because they believe some things that you have said in speeches show that you'll not be able to put your personal views aside.

But I believe rather than pulling lines out of speeches, oftentimes out of context, the better way is to examine your record as a judge. In fact, when I asked now-Justice Alito what sort of a justice he was going to make, he said, quote, "If you want to know what sort of justice I would make, look at what sort of judge I've been."

KOHL: So you've served now as a federal judge for the past 17 years, the last 11 as an appellate court judge. If we examine the record, I believe it's plain that you are a careful jurist, respectful of precedent, and author of dozens of moderate and carefully reasoned decisions. The best evidence, I believe, is the infrequency with which you have been reversed.

You have authored over 230 majority opinions in your 11 years on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. But in only three out of those 230-plus cases have your decisions been reversed by the Supreme Court -- a very, very low reversal rate of 2 percent.

Doesn't this very low reversal rate indicate that you do have, in fact, an ability to be faithful to the law and put your personal opinions and background aside when deciding cases as you have in your experience as a federal judge?

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