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

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, July 16, 2009 6:25 PM

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RICCI: Thank you, Senator.

It's important to realize that over 100 firefighters die in the line of duty each year and an additional 80,000 are injured. You need to have a command of the knowledge in order to make command decisions. You need to understand the rules and regulations.

Experience is the best teacher, but only a fool learns in that school alone. You have to have a basis to make the right decisions, because firefighters operate in all different types of environments.

I've had the proud privilege of training the United States Marine Corps sea berth team (ph), and they responded to anthrax attacks in one of these buildings. I mean, firefighters have to be prepared for the regular house fire to the car accident to the hazardous material incident.

You go to work every day, and we're like an insurance policy for the American public that they hope they never have to use. But when someone calls 911, within four to five minutes, there's a fully staffed fire company at your door with no paperwork, and we're there to answer the call.

And when you show up, the officer has to be competent to lead his men and women of this fire service, career and volunteer across the country, to make the right decision.

KYL: Thank you. That's a great explanation.

Lieutenant Vargas?

VARGAS: There's not much I can add to that.

KYL: That was pretty good. Well, I -- I appreciate it, and I know that everybody here, regardless of party or position on the nominee or anything else, appreciates what you do and what your colleagues do. And -- and I'm sure I speak for all of us in that regard. One of the things that I wanted to -- to just say briefly is that, I -- I am very proud of our -- I was a lawyer and I practiced law. And -- and I won some, and I lost some, but I always had confidence in our system.

And America is not unique, but there aren't very many countries in the world like us where we willingly volunteer to put our -- our fortunes, our freedom, in the event that we're accused of a crime, maybe even our life, if there could be a death penalty involved, our careers, in the case of the suits that you all were involved in. We willingly do that.

And the way we do it is interesting. You all may not know this, but the lawyers here certainly know it. When I filed a case in the U.S. District Court in Arizona, I didn't know which judge I was going to get. There were about 10. There was one I hoped I didn't get.

But I knew that the other nine, it didn't matter. They would all approach -- there were Democrats. There were Republicans. But I didn't know, because it's the next one in order, and the lawyers don't know the order, so it's almost by lot.

But we had confidence that we could put our client's issue before the court and that justice would be done, because that's the way our system works, and over 220 years, the rule of law has been established in this country by judges applying the law fairly and impartially. And over time, the precedents have been built up.

And what struck me about what you all had -- and I'm talking about the two of you -- had to go through is, first of all, you were confronted with a judge who, in a very thorough decision, said, "You lose." And then you appealed to the Second Circuit and in a per curiam opinion -- and you all know now what that is all too well -- the court didn't even write about it, said, "No, you lose again."

And then, the day that you got the results from the Supreme Court, just -- what's the difference between what you felt at the first situation and when you got the news about the Supreme Court, about your confidence in our system?

VARGAS: I -- I tried to say earlier that this is exactly how this country was built. This is why we're so great, because, you know, you can work hard, and you can go after the things that you want in this -- in this country, and -- and, you know, you're going to be successful, you know, but you have to apply yourself.

And those are the things that I try to instill in my kids, and I'll always put that forth, and I'll speak with my actions so that they can see that it's a great country, you know? And -- and that's why you need to work hard.

RICCI: The price of democracy is vigilance. And to be -- to be willing to participate -- and the original feeling was, you know, we always, through our attorneys, always went back to that process and said, "This is America. If we keep going forward, the process will work." And that, at the end, to be able to look at my son and say, "You know, I haven't been there for you," but to look at him and say, "This is -- this is an unbelievable civics lesson that, if you participate in democracy, that's how it all works."

And I thank you, Senator.

KYL: Well, and I thank you. And I -- I hope that all of you will have confidence in our legal system in the future. And everybody here, again, regardless of position, will really stand in awe at a system which in our country year in, year out has proved to be a very, very good system for our people.

Thank you.

CARDIN: Well, Senator Kyl, I want to thank you for your questions and the responses. I think it was the right way for the record to reflect the end of this panel, which has been, I think, very, very helpful to us in the record, on the confirmation process for Judge Sotomayor.

I want to thank Chairman Leahy for allowing me to chair this panel. We've had a very distinguished -- all eight of you, we thank you for being here.

I particularly want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for taking the time to come from New York. I mention him because not only he does a great job as mayor, but has had an important role at Johns Hopkins University. And we very much appreciate that.

And to Mr. Morgenthau, you are the model for the nation in the district attorney's office. And it's -- it's a real honor to have you before our committee. And we -- we thank you for your energy and continuation in public service.

And to firefighter Ricci and to Lieutenant Vargas, I personally want to thank you for being here. You put a face on the issues. We -- we look at cases, and we talk about the impact, but it affects real people and real lives and real families. And I think you really have added to today's hearing by your personal stories.

Each one of us thank you for your public service. And we thank you for your belief in our nation and for the testimony that you have given to this committee. It's been extremely helpful to each one of us on -- on the Judiciary Committee.

And with that, we are going to take a five-minute recess. When we return, Senator Klobuchar will be chairing the next panel.

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