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

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Thursday, July 16, 2009; 5:28 PM

WHITEHOUSE (?): Thank you, Senator. Senator Cornyn?

CORNYN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to extend my appreciation to each of the witnesses for taking your time and -- to be here today. It's very important. These are -- as we need to remind ourselves, this is a historic time and appointment, and these are very important issues that should not be neglected or overlooked because of the press of other activities.

My own position is that I think, by virtue of her training, her experience and her high achievement, Judge Sotomayor is very well- qualified, all other things being equal.

Unfortunately, because of her speeches and other public statements where she said there's no such thing as objectivity in the law, which -- the opposite of objectivity is subjectivity. She said there's no neutrality. And if there's no neutrality, then I guess all that leaves is bias.

And it really strikes a body blow, I think, to -- to the concept of equal justice under the law. Judges are not policymakers and judges should leave that job to the elected representatives of the people, who reserve the time-honored right to throw the rascals out if they don't like what we're doing as elected members of the legislative branch.

So, you know, my -- my concern is what kind of judge would she be if confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, the kind of judge that follows her speeches or the kind that follows the law?

And -- but I just want to say to these firefighters what I told them earlier today when they were kind enough to come by my office. I think, you know, judges make mistakes. They used to say the only lawyer who hadn't lost a case is one that hadn't tried one.

And I don't necessarily hold it so much against Judge Sotomayor that she didn't rule your way in the case. Unfortunately, I think she did not give it the proper respect and -- and pay it the sort of attention that she should. Because there were real claims there that needed to be resolved by a court.

Every citizen's entitled to that, to have judges pay attention and not make mistakes by, you know, trying to sweep it under the rug.

And thank goodness that Judge Cabranes found the case, because it almost got slipped through the cracks, and then highlighted it so if you get to the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court could address this very important -- the important issues that you've presented here.

And one of the most important aspects, I think, of this hearing is this provides an opportunity, and it would not have been provided, I think, in large part unless these firefighters had had the courage to do what they've done, is for us to re-focus our attention on some of these areas like, as Chief Justice Roberts said, he said, "It's sordid business, this divvying up by race, " and looking at people not as an individual human being, but as a member of a group or because of their sex or their ethnicity or their race. You know, it's time for this nation, I think, I hope we would all agree, to look at everyone as individuals, and to reward hard work, sacrifice and initiative, the kinds of things that I think, particularly you, Frank and Ben, you -- Frank is the lead (inaudible), but all of the firefighters have helped demonstrate the importance of not divvying up by race, not using de facto quotas.

And I think -- I would have felt a lot better if Judge Sotomayor had said, "You know what? This is really an important issue and we should have addressed it, but it slipped through our fingers, but thank goodness it was caught and it was ultimately reviewed." But she didn't. And I think the idea that the city could throw out a test just because the outcome wasn't what they wanted is really pretext for racial discrimination. It's to deny people what they are entitled to because of the color of their skin.

So I just want to ask in the short time I have here, Mr. Vargas, you've -- I read earlier a statement that you made to the New York Times about the reason why you've gone through these five grueling years of litigation and the abuse that you've taken from people who -- who tried to shame you out of standing on your rights and seeing this thing through. Could you just tell the committee what sacrifices you have made, what your family's made? And why you felt like those sacrifices were so important to vindicate this important right?

VARGAS: Well, let alone the financial sacrifice, but you know, it starts from the moment you get out of the academy. I mean, this was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to advance my career as a firefighter right through the ranks. And you know, the books came with me to work every single day, you know, from the minute I graduated from the academy, right up to when I got promoted to lieutenant. And they kept coming with me right on until I took the captain's exam.

And once I get promoted to captain, they're going to continue to come with me as I go up through the ranks. You know, it's not something that, you know, you can lose sight of. You've got to continue to work hard, and I want to instill that in my kids. I want them to see that and I want them to know that this is what America is all about.

You work hard. This is how America was built -- the greatest country in the world because you -- you, as I said before, you rise and fall on your own merits.

(UNKNOWN): Do you hope for a day for your children what -- we mentioned Martin Luther King's statement previously, that a day when they will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin?

VARGAS: I think our case goes a long way to help in the (inaudible) up for them, and they're going to benefit from this, and I think we're going in the right direction now.

(UNKNOWN): I couldn't agree more.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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