Transcript: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Opening Statement

CQ Transcriptions

Read all opening statement transcripts at our Opening Arguments blog.

Monday July 13, 2009

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Sessions.

I want to welcome Judge Sotomayor. We in New York are so proud of you and to your whole family who I know are exceptionally proud to be here today to support this historic nomination.

Now, our presence here today is about a nominee who's supremely well qualified will experience on the district court and the appellate court benches that is unmatched in recent history. It's about a nominee who, in 17 years of judging, has authored opinion after opinion that is smart, thoughtful, and judicially modest.

In short, Judge Sotomayor has stellar credentials. There's no question about that. Judge Sotomayor has twice before been nominated to the bench, gone through confirmation hearings with bipartisan support. The first time, she was nominated by a Republican president.

But most important, Judge Sotomayor's record bespeaks judicial modesty, something that our friends on the right have been clamoring for in a way that no recent nominees has. It is the judicial record, more than speeches and statements, more than personal background, that accurately measures how modest a judicial nominee will be. There are several ways of measuring modesty in the judicial record, and Judge Sotomayor more than measures up to each of them.

First, as we'll hear in the next few days, Judge Sotomayor puts rule of law above everything else. Given her extensive and even-hand record, I'm not sure how any member of this panel can sit here today and seriously suggest that she comes to the bench with a personal agenda. Unlike Justice Alito, you don't come to the bench with a record number of dissents. Instead, her record shows that she is in the mainstream. She's agreed with Republican colleagues 95 percent of the time. She has ruled for the government in 83 percent of immigration cases against the immigration plaintiff.

She has ruled for the government in 92 percent of criminal cases. She has denied race claims in 83 percent of the cases and has split evenly on employment cases between employer and employee.

Second, and this is an important point because of her unique experience in the district court, Judge Sotomayor delves thoroughly into the fact of each cases. She trusts that an understanding of the facts will lead, ultimately, to justice.

I would ask my colleagues to do this. Examine a sampling, a random sampling of her cases in a variety of areas. In case after case, she rolls up her sleeves, learns the facts, applies the law to the facts, and comes to a decision irrespective of her inclinations or her personal experience.

In a case involving a New York police officer who made white supremacist remarks, she upheld his right to make them. In a case brought by plaintiffs who claim they had been bumped from a plane because of race, she dismissed their case because the law required it. And she upheld the First Amendment right of a prisoner to wear religious beads under his uniforms.

In hot-button cases such as professional sports, she carefully adheres to the facts before her and upheld the NFL's ability to maintain certain player restrictions but also ruled in favor of baseball players to end the Major League Baseball strike.

And, third, Judge Sotomayor has hewed carefully to the text of statutes, even when doing so results in rulings that go against so- called sympathetic litigants. In dissenting from an award of damages to injured plaintiffs in a maritime accident, she wrote, "We start with the assumption that it is for Congress, not the federal courts, to articulate the appropriate standards to be applied as a matter of federal law."

Mr. Chairman, just four short years ago, then-Judge Roberts sat where Judge Sotomayor is sitting. He told us that his jurisprudence would be characterized by modesty and humility. He illustrated this with the now well-known quote: "Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules. They apply them."

Chief Judge -- Justice Roberts was and is a supremely intelligent man with impeccable credentials, but many can debate whether his four years on the Supreme Court he actually called pitches as they come or whether he tried to change the rules.

But any objective review of Judge Sotomayor's record on the Second Circuit leaves no doubt that she has simply called balls and strikes for 17 years far more closely than Chief Justice Roberts has during his four years on the Supreme Court.

More important, if Judge Sotomayor continues to approach cases on the Supreme Court as she has for the last 17 years, she will be actually modest judicially. This is because she does not adhere to a philosophy that dictates results over facts that are presented.

So, in conclusion, if the number-one standard that conservatives use and apply is judicial modesty and humility, no activism on the Supreme Court, they should vote for Judge Sotomayor unanimously.

I look forward to the next few days of hearings and to Judge Sotomayor's confirmation.


© The Washington Post Company