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Sen. Klobuchar Questions Witnesses at Judge Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings

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Thursday, July 16, 2009; 5:18 PM

CARDIN: Senator Klobuchar?

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. I'm going to let Senator Specter, who is -- I guess I'm more senior to him only because of a technicality, but also he's been here longer. So I'm going to let him go and then I will go after.

CARDIN: Senator Specter?

SPECTER: No, no, I'll defer to Senator Klobuchar.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOBUCHAR: OK. Here we go.

I first wanted to thank both firefighters for your service. As a prosecutor, we worked extensively on arson cases and I just got a little sense of what you go through every day and how dangerous your job is. So thank you for that.

I just wanted to follow up on one thing. Ms. Chavez, when you talked about your clearly know Ms. Sotomayor's history and her record, but when you talked about how she got into Princeton, you didn't point out the one thing that I think Mr. Morgenthau did, and that is that she ended up graduating from there summa cum laude, and that certainly is all about numbers and grades, I would think, and not affirmative action. Would that be correct?

CHAVEZ: That's absolutely right, and I wish that was the message that she was giving to her Hispanic audiences, that she was able to do it; that she was able to overcome adversity; that she was able because she applied herself and worked hard and put in the hours studying to be able to succeed. And that is not the message.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. But she also was valedictorian of her high school class. Where I went to high school, that was all numbers and grades and nothing to do with anything else. Is that true?

CHAVEZ: I am only quoting what she has said herself. I don't have any idea what her test scores were. I don't think anyone but she does. But she has said that she got in to Princeton and also Yale based on the affirmative action programs of those universities.

KLOBUCHAR: OK.

Mr. Morgenthau, it's just an honor to meet you. When I was district attorney, I hired a number of people that learned everything they knew from you and your office, so thank you for that.

KLOBUCHAR: And in fact, when I did my opening statement, I talked about a quote you gave once about how you hired people, and you say, "We want people with good judgment because a lot of the job of a prosecutor is making decisions." You said, "I also want to see some signs of humility in anybody that I hire. We're giving young lawyers a lot of power and we want to make sure that they're going to use that power with good sense and without arrogance."

Could you talk about those two qualities -- the good judgment and the humility, and how you think those qualities may be or may not be reflected in our nominee?

MORGENTHAU: Well, I'm -- I mean, I think she met all those standards. I -- I interviewed her and talked to her, thought she was a hard worker. I thought she would relate to the victims and witnesses. I thought she had humility. I thought she was fair. I thought she'd apply the law.

She met all of those standards that I thought were important to me, and I hired her entirely on the merits, entirely on the merits, nothing to do with her ethnic background or anything else. She was an outstanding candidate on the merits.

KLOBUCHAR: There is also a letter that we received from 40 of her colleagues. And one of the things I've learned is that, well, maybe sometimes someone does well in their workplace by their superiors, sometimes their colleagues think something else. And here you have her colleagues talking about the long hours she worked, how she was among the very first in her starting class to be selected to handle felonies.

Could you describe how your process works in your office and how certain people get to handle felonies sooner than others?

MORGENTHAU: Well, it's (inaudible) we have six trial bureau of about 50, 55 lawyers in each one. And it's up to the bureau chief, the deputies to decide who should move along.

And I know one of the people who wrote that letter had gone to -- to Princeton and to Yale Law School and studied for the bar with Sonia. And I said to him, "I guess she was a little bit ahead of you." And he said, "She was a full step ahead of us."

And she has the judgment, the gravitas, the knowledge of people, the ability to persuade victims and witnesses to testify. We thought she was a natural to move up to the Supreme Court. KLOBUCHAR: Very good.

Mayor Bloomberg, I noted today earlier that the -- that Judge Sotomayor has the support of so many law enforcement organizations in New York, National District Attorneys Association, could you talk about the -- what that support means and how -- I know you've had success along with Mr. Morgenthau's amazing record of bringing crime down in New York, working with the police, working with the county attorneys as a team and, while our nominee was a small part of that, one -- one assistant district attorney in -- as part of a big effort, what difference that has made to New York?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I think, Senator, the reason that we've been able to bring crime down and improve the schools and the economy and all of these things is because I've never asked anybody or considered their ethnicity, their marital status, orientation, gender, or religion, or anything else. I just try to get the best that I possibly can to come to work for the city, and I think the results are there.

When I interview for judges -- and I've appointed something like 140 so far in the last seven-and-a-half years, I look for integrity, and professional competence, and judicial temperament, and how well they write, and their appellate records, and their reputation for fairness and impartiality.

But also we extensively talk to members of the bar and the bench to see what professionals who have to work with the candidate day in and day out think. It's very easy to be on your best behavior when you come to Washington and have to testify before a group like this, but the truth of the matter is, your real character comes out when you do it day in and day out over a long period of time. And that's what your contemporaries see.

So the fact that a lot of people who've worked with this judge think that she is eminently qualified to move up carries an awful lot of weight with me. They can -- they know a lot more about her and her abilities than you or I could ever find out with the short period of time that we interact with her or read of -- read about her decisions, sort of out of context of what was going on at the time, and we don't have the ability to do all of the research that her contemporaries have been doing.

KLOBUCHAR: So you're saying that -- you give that a lot more weight than all the questions we've been asking for the last three days?

BLOOMBERG: No, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't go quite that far, but I do think that people who work with somebody for a long period of time really do get to know them. And most importantly, people who are on the other side of the issues, on the other side of the bench, if they think that even though -- and sometimes they win and sometimes they lose -- their views, to me, matter an awful lot more.

KLOBUCHAR: I would agree. Thank you.


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