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Sen. Franken's Second Round of Questioning at Judge Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing

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Thursday, July 16, 2009; 12:36 PM

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FRANKEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have a letter here from several former U.S. attorneys from the Southern District of New York, some of them Republican-appointed and supporting the Judge's confirmation, and I'll read a little bit from it.

She -- says that each had personal experience, including appearing before Judge Sotomayor. "She came to our cases without any apparent bias, probed counsel actively with insightful and, at times, tough questions, and demonstrated time and again that she not only listens but is often persuaded by counsel. In our matters, Judge Sotomayor's opinions reflect clear discipline and" -- you know, it's great. It's a great letter. And I would ask that it be entered into the record.

Sir, can I enter into the record?

LEAHY: (OFF-MIKE)

FRANKEN: OK. Thank you.

Thank you, Judge Sotomayor, for your patience and your terrific answers. We've heard a lot about your thoughts on specific cases and on principles of jurisprudence. I'd like to ask a much more general question, and one that I think is a really good question in job interviews. And that is, "Why do you want to be a Supreme Court justice?"

SOTOMAYOR: You're going to hate me for taking a few minutes, but can I tell you a story?

FRANKEN: I would love it.

SOTOMAYOR: Because it will explain who I am and why.

When Senator Moynihan first told me that he would consider sending my name to Senator D'Amato for consideration as a district court judge, he asked me to keep it quiet for a little bit of time, and I asked permission to tell my mom and Omar. He said, "Sure."

So, they were visiting, and I told them, and mom was very, very excited. And she then said, "How much more money are you going to earn?" And I stopped and I said, "I'm going to take a big pay cut."

Then, she stopped and she stopped, and she said, "Are you going to do as much foreign travel as you do now," because I was flying all over the U.S. and abroad as part of my private practice work. And I said, "Probably not, because I'm going to live in a courthouse in Lower Manhattan near where I used to work as a Manhattan D.A."

Now, the pause was a little longer, and she said, "OK." Then, she said, "Now, all the fascinating clients that you work with," and you may have heard yesterday I had some fairly well known clients, "You're going to be able to go traveling with them and with the new people you meet, right?" And I said, "No. Most of them are going to come before me as litigants to the cases I'm hearing, and I can't become friends with them."

SOTOMAYOR: Now the pause was really long, and she finally looked and she says, "Why do you want this job?" And Omar, who was sitting next to her, said, "Celina, you know your daughter"-- this is in Spanish -- "You know your daughter." This is in Spanish. "You know your daughter and her stuff with public service." That really has always been the answer.

Given who I am, my love of the law, my sense of importance about the rule of law, how central it is to the functioning of our society, how it sets us apart, as many senators have noted, from the rest of the world, have always created a passion in me, and that passion led me to want to be a -- a lawyer first and now to be a judge, because I can't think of any greater service that I can give to the country than to be permitted the privilege of being a justice of the Supreme Court.

FRANKEN: Thank you.

Well, I, for one, have been very impressed with you, Judge. And I certainly intend to support your confirmation for the court.

I guess there is another round. I thought I was going to be the only thing between you and the door, so I -- I -- I plan to just yield my -- all the rest of my time. But since I'm not, I'd like to ask you some -- no, I'm going to yield the rest of my time, if that's OK.

LEAHY: Thank you. Thank you very much, Senator Franken.

I will reserve my time. We'll have -- as Senator Sessions has asked us -- 10-minute rounds. I think they'll be primarily on the Republican side. I may speak again when they finish.

But we'll begin with you, Senator Sessions.


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