tv [untitled] CSPAN June 24, 2009 4:00pm-4:30pm EDT
the record straight. the supreme court hearing for judge sonia sotomayor will begin july 13 but my consideration will not begin then. i began considering her the day she was announced because as a member of the judiciary committee i want to learn as much as i can about president obama's choice to fill one of the most important jobs in our country. even though there are many questions that will be asked and many areas that we will want to focus on, i would like to speak today about how judge sotomayor appears to me, based on my initial review. after meeting with her and learning about her, i'm very positive about her nomination. judge sotomayor knows the constitution, she knows the law, but she also knows america. i know americans have heard a lot of things about her -- her background, her long career as a judge -- but it is really important for us to talk about
what is solid nominee she is, because we have to keep in mind that there have been some accusations, some misstatements, many of them made by people outside of this chamber, on tv and 24/7 cable, but there have been some misstatements. it really all came to me a few weeks ago, mr. president, when i was in the airport in the twin cities in minnesota pands a guy came up to me on the tram in the airport and he said, hey, you know how you're voting on that woman? i said, well, i want to listen to her and see how she answers some of the questions. he said, i'm worried. i said, why are you worried? he said, because she's always putting her emotions in front of the law. i said, you know when she's on a panel with three judges which they often do, that 95% of the time she comes to an agreement with the republican-appointed judge on the panel?
so you must be thinking the same thing about those guys because you can't just say that about her. so that incident made me think that we really need to set the record straight here about the facts, that we be ambassadors of truth and get out the truth about judge sotomayor, about her record, and about what kind of judge that we're looking for on the united states supreme court. we need to make sure that she gets the same, civil, fair treatment that other nominees have been given. judge sotomayor's story, mr. president, is a classic american story about what is possible in our country through hard work. she grew up in her own words in modest and challenging circumstances and she worked hard for every single thing she got. many of you know her story. her dad died when she was nine years old and her mom sported her and her brother by herself. her mom was devoted to her children's education. in fact, her mom was so devoted to her education and her
brother's education that she actually saved every penny she could so she could buy e encyclopedia britannicas for her kids and this really meant a lot to meevment i remember growing up, thencyclopedia britannicas in the hallway were like in a hallowed place. i now show my daughter who is 13 and these are from the 1960's. she doesn't seem very interested in them, but they meant a lot to our family and they clearly meant a lot to judge sotomayor. she graduated from princeton summa cum laude and f.b.i. bet at that kappa and was one of two people to wint highest award that prifnston gives to undergraduates. she went on to yale law school which launched a three decades'-long career in the law. so when commentators have questioned whether she was smart enough, i'm lirks you can't make this up. you can't make up f.b.i. bet at that cap pavment you can't make up that you have these high awards and that you're summa cum
laude and phi bet at that kappa. these are facts that should go into evidence. since graduating, the judge has a varied and interesting legal career. she's worked as a private -- in the private sector as a litigator. she's been a district court and an appellate court judge and she's taught law school classes. but the one experience of hers that particularly resonates for me is that immediately graduating from law school, she spent five years as a prosecutor at the manhattan district attorney's office, which was one of the busiest and most well-thought-of prosecutors' offices in our country. at that time it paid about half as much as a scrob in the private sector, but she wanted the challenge and the trial experience, as she told me when we met, and she took the job as a prosecutor. before i entered the senate, mr. president, i was a prosecutor, managing an office of about 400 people in minute, the biggest prosecutor office in our state.
so i was very interested in this experience that we had in common. one of the things that i learned -- and i really quickly learned that she understood based on our discussions -- is that as a prosecutor, the law is not just some dusty book in your basement. after you've interacted with victims of a crime, after you've seen the damage the crime can do to a community, the havoc that it can wreak, after you have interacted with defendants who are going to persist on and you've seen-- --who are going to prison and you've interacted, you see that the law has had a real impact on real people. as a prosecutor, you don't just have to know the law. you have to know people. you have to know human nature. ms. sotomayor's former supervisor hugh mo said that she was a commanding figure in the courtroom who would weave together a complex set of facts, enforce the law, and never lose
sight of who she was fighting for. and of course she was fighting for the people -- for the people in those neighborhoods. she was fighting for the victims of crime. judge sotomayor's experience as a prosecutor tells me that she meets one of my criteria for supreme court nominee. i'm looking for someone who deeply appreciates the power and impact that laws have and that the criminal justice system has on real people's lives. from her first day at that manhattan district attorney's office, judge sotomayor learned that the law is not just an abstraction. in addition to her work as a prosecutor, i've also learned a lot about judge sotomayor from her long record as a judge. she has been a judge for 17 years, 11 years as an appellate judge, and six years as a trial judge. president george h.w. bush shall the first president bush, gave her the first job she had as a
federal judge. so she was actually nominated by a republican president. the job was to be a district judge in the southern district of new york. her nomination to the southern district was enthusiastically supported by both new york senators -- democratitic senator daniel patrick moynihan and republican senator alfonse d'amato. now, if you watch tv or read newspapers or blogs, you know that judge sotomayor has been called some names. this always happened in these supreme court nomination processes. she has been called names by talkingheads on tv and on radio and in most cases these commentators may have read a case or two of hers, or even worse they just read a speech and took a sentence or so out of context, and they've decided that they are entitled to make a sweeping judgment about her judicial fitness based on a few words that have been taken out of context. i think just about everything in a nominee's professional record
is fair game to consider. after all, we're obligated to determine whether to confirm someone to an incredibly important position with lifetime tenure. that's a constitutional duty that i take very seriously. but that said, when people get upset about a few items in a few speeches that a judge has given, i have to wonder, do a few statements that someone has made in public for which they've said they could have used different words, do those trump 17 years of modest, reasoned, careful judicial decision making? i don't think so. if we want to know what kind of a justice she'll be, isn't our best evidence to look at the type of judge she's already been? here are the facts: as a trial judge, judge sotomayor presided over roughly 450 cases on the second circuit. she's participated in more than 3,000 panel decisions. she's authored more than 200
appellate decisions and in cases where judge sotomayor and at least one republican-appointed judge set son a three-judge pan panel, judge sotomayor and the republican-appointed judge agreed 95% of the time. the supreme court has only reviewed five cases where she authored the decision and it affirmed the decision below in two of them. so the vast majority of her cases, the vast majority of her cases, have not been in any way overturned or reversed by a higher court. it's worth noting that this nominee, if confirmed, would bring more federal judicial experience to the supreme court than any justice in 100 years. so with that, i see one of my colleagues is here, the senator from new hampshire, and we're going to have a number of women senators here today. i'll come back and finish my remarks sometime in this next half-hour. but i thought it was very important that senator shaheen,
the senator from new hampshire, be able to say a few words here about the nominee. thank you very much, mr. president, and i yield the floor. mrs. shaheen: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: mr. president, i'm delighted to be here this afternoon to join my friend and colleague from the state of minnesota, senator klobuchar, in supporting the nomination of justice sonia sotomayor to be a justice of the supreme court. you know, everyone in my home state of new hampshire was very proud 19 years ago when former president george bush nominated new hampshire's own david souter as an associate justice of the supreme court. every action justice souter has taken since he began his service
in our nation's -- on our nation's highest court has only reinforced that pride. so when justice souter announced in early may that he intended to retire at the end of his term and return home to new hampshire, i took particular interest in whom president obama would select to fill david souter's seat. i believe the president has made a thoughtful and outstanding choice in nominating judge sonia sotomayor. judge sotomayor has had a distinguished career as a federal judge, as has been widely noted. if confirmed, she would bring more federal judicial experience to the supreme court than any justice in 100 years. today david souter is the only member of the supreme court with prior experience as a trial court judge. sonia sotomayor, too, would be the only justice -- the only
justice -- with experience as a trial court judge. i happen to agree with senator klobuchar. i think it's important that at least one of the nine supreme court justices have that experience. it is trial judges, after all, who day in and day out must apply the legal principles enunciated in supreme court opinions. judge sotomayor also served five years as a local prosecutor and practiced law for seven years as a trial attorney with a law firm. judge sotomayor, because of her experience, will be ever-mindful of the need to provide those in the courtroom with clear and practical decisions. and, more important, she will understand how supreme court opinions affect real human beings. as a trial judge, judge sotomayor every day directly faced innocent victims of crime,
vicious perpetrators of crime, and occasionally the wrongfully accused. she directly faced injured parties seeking civil redress and civil defendant whose may have made honest mistakes. she had to answer: what is the right verdict? what is the right length of incarceration? what is the right level of damages? these are not easy decisions. i know that because my husband was a state trial court judge for 16 years. trial court judges must be able to live with the justice they mete out. to do it well, it takes more than an understanding of the law; it takes an understanding of people. and judge sotomayor has a great understanding of both. i had the pleasure of meeting with sonia sotomayor the day she fractured her ankle. i said to her as she came into my office, boy, you're tough. she said, well, i grew up in the
bronx. we had to be thank you. she handled that painful injury with grace and humor. she has a first-rate temperament. she also has a first-rate intellect. after growing up in a public housing project in the south bronx, she being a seld at both princeton and yale law school. i believe judge sonia sotomayor is an excellent choice to replace david souter as a supreme court justice. she deserves a fair and a thorough hearing without delay. mr. president, i look forward to that hearing, and i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: well, thank you very much, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: i ask for recognized? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: i want to thank
my colleague, senator shaheen, for her remarks and for her reminiscence of meeting with the judge and her -- once again, the judge showing how she perseveres in the face of adversity. i also wanted to talk a little bit more -- i was ending my last comments talking about how in fact this nominee would bring more federal judicial experience to the supreme court than any skwrufrts in 100 years. i -- justice in 100 years. i noted my exchange in the airport where someone wondered whether she was worthy of this, able to apply the facts and the law. when you compare her to any of these other nominees on the supreme court, she stands out. she stands out not only because of her unique background and she overcame obstacles to get here, but she stands out because of her experience. all those years as a prosecutor,
all those years as a federal judge, that makes a difference. i want to address one other point that's been made about judge sotomayor, is in her capacity as a judge, and it was something actually senator shaheen mentioned, and that's this temperament issue. there have been some stories and comments, mostly anonymous, i would note, that questioned judge sotomayor's judicial temperament. according to one news story about this topic, judge sotomayor developed a reputation for asking tough questions at oral arguments and for being sometimes pwrufbg and curt with lawyers -- brusque and curt with lawyers. where i come from, asking tough questions and having very little patience for unprepared lawyers is the very definition of being a judge. i can't tell you how many times i've seen judges get very impatient with lawyers who weren't prepared and who didn't know the answer to a question.
as a lawyer, you owe it to the bench and to your clients to be well prepared as you possibly can. as nina tottenberg said on national public radio, if sonia sotomayor dominates oral argument at her court, if she is feisty, pushy, she would fit right in at the the united states supreme court. surely we have come to a time in this country where we can confirm as many gruff, to-the-point female judges as we can confirm gruff, to-the-point male judges. just think how far we have come with this nominee. when sandra day o'connor graduateed from law school 50-plus years ago, the only offer -- the only offer -- she got from a law firm was for a position as a legal secretary. she had this great background, a very impressive background.
and yet the only offer she got was as a legal secretary. judge ginsburg, who now sits on the court, faced similar obstacles. when she entered harvard in the 1950's, she was the only one of nine women in a class of more than 500. one of nine women in a class of more than 500. and one professor actually asked her to justify taking a place that would have gone to a man in that class in harvard. nine women, 500 spots, and someone actually asked her to justify the fact that she was there. i suppose she could justify it now by saying she's now on the united states supreme court. later justice ginsburg was passed over for a prestigious clerkship despite her impressive credentials. looking at judge sotomayor's long record as a lawyer, a prosecutor and a judge, you can see we've come a long way. she was confirmed by this senate by the district court.
she was nominated at that point by the first president bush bush. she was confirmed by this senate for the second circuit. and she now faces confirmation hearing before our judiciary committee and a confirmation again for a position with the united states supreme court. i will tell you this, mr. president. after learning about judge sotomayor, her background, her legal career, her judicial record, like so many of my colleagues, i'm very impressed. to use president obama's words, "i hope that judge sotomayor will bring to her nomination hearing and to the supreme court, if she's confirmed, not only the knowledge and the experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life's journey." you know, actually today justice o'connor was on the "today" show and she was asked about her work
on the court and what it was like. and she was actually asked about -- she was asked about judge sotomayor. and what she said was -- she said -- and i'm just looking over here at this. she actually said, she was asked, when you retire, do you let it be known that you would like a woman to replace you, and you were sort of disappointed when a woman didn't replace you. so what is your reaction to justice sotomayor's nomination? and justice o'connor said, well, of course i'm pleased that we will have another woman on the court. i do think it's important not to have just one. our nearest neighbor -- canada -- also has a court of nine members. and in canada, there's a woman chief justice and there are four women all told on the canadian court. and then she was asked, do you think there's a right number of women who should be on the
court? justice o'connor this morning said, no, of course not. then she pointed out -- this is a quote -- but about half of all law graduates today are women, and we have a tremendous number of qualified women in the country who are serving as lawyers, so they ought to be represented on the court. she was also asked later in the interview about opponents of justice sotomayor who have brought up this term "activist judge." she was asked that, i know that is a term you have railed against in the past. what is it about the term that you object to? and she answered, "i don't think the public understands what's meant by it. it's thrown around by many in the political field, and i think that probably for most users of the term, they're distinguishing between the role of a legislator and a judge. and they say that a judge should
not legislate. the problem, of course, justice o'connor said is at the appellate level, and the supreme court is at the top of the appellate level, rulings at the court do become binding law. and so it's a little hard to talk in terms of who's an activist. i again ask people to look at justice sotomayor's opinions. when i talk to her about this, she talked about how she really uses a set formula: laying out the facts, laying out the law, showing how the law applies to the facts, and then reaching a decision. and you also look at her record here, where in fact when she was on a three-judge panel with other, two other judges, when you look at her record of when she agreed with judges who had been appointed by a republican president, a 95% of the time they reached the same decision. so unless you believe those
republican-appointed judges are somehow activist judges, then i guess you would say that she is' an activist judge. but i think when you look at her whole record, you see someone who's a moderate, sometimes coming down on one side and sometimes coming down on another. i can tell you, as a former prosecutor, i always just looked at whether i agreed with a judge or not when i was trying to figure out if someone would be a good job. i would look at whether they applied the laws to the facts, whether they were fair. and sometimes our prosecutors' office wouldn't agree with the judge's decision. we would argue vehemently for a different decision. but in the end, when we evaluated these judges, when we decided whether we thought they were fair, whether they'd be a fair person to have on a case, we really looked at that whole experience. we looked at that whole experience to make a decision about whether or not this was a judge that could be fair. and that's what i think when you
look at her record -- and i'm looking very much to this hearings where we're going to explore a number of cases. colleagues on one side of the aisle will disagree with one case, agree with the other. but you have to look at her record as a whole. you look at that record, you will see someone of experience, someone who is thoul, someone who makes a decision -- someone who is thoughtful, someone who makes a decision based on the facts and based on the law. i am very much looking forward to these hearings, mr. president. i know that some of my colleagues are coming down here as we speak. i'm looking forward to their arrival as we become ambassadors of truth to get these facts out as so many things have been bandied about and other things that really get into people's heads. and i think it's really important that for all of those watching c-span right now and for all of those that are in the galleries today, that people
take these facts away with them, the facts of her experience, over 100 years of judicial experience. when you look back, 100 years, she has more experience on the bench than any of the justices that were nominated. you have to go back 100 years to find someone with that much experience. and you look at that work that she's done as a prosecutor, you look at the work that she has done throughout her whole life where she basically come from nothing, worked her way, got into a good college, got into a good law school, did it on her home, maybe with a little help from her mom who bought those encyclopedia britannicas. this is a nominee who not only understands the law and understands the constitution, but also understands america. thank you very much, mr. president, and i yield the floor. i ask for the absence of a
ms. klobuchar: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i'm pleased that my colleague from louisiana, senator landrieu, who has spoken many times in the past about the importance of fair judges and strong judges, and i'm pleased that she's here today to discuss this nominee. ms. landrieu: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: thank you, mr. president. i thank my colleague for her passionate remarks about this particular nominee, and i'm happy to join many of my colleagues in supporting a woman that i consider to be really an extraordinarily accomplished woman, and commend president obama for his selection. as the senate judiciary
committee prepares for its confirmation hearing, i wanted to come to the floor to express my strong support for this nominee. as we all know, the supreme court serves as the highest tribunal in the nation, as the final arbitrator of our laws, the supreme court justice are charged, mr. president, with ensuring the american people achieve the promise of equal justice under our law and serving as interpreters of our constitution. it's a very important charge. it's our duty as senators to ensure that the members of this high court, which we are asked to confirm, serve as impartial and fair-minded, who apply our laws, not merely their ideology. the american people deserve no less. a number of my colleagues have expressed concerns regarding this nominee. those are not concerns that i
share. having reviewed her resume, her academic credentials, having reviewed her time both on the bench, on the second circuit as well as in a trial capacity, she has an expansive judicial record, and i think that provides evidence of the kind of judge that she will be just as she will be on the supreme court. she's been described as a fearless and effective prosecutor. she has for six years as a trial judge in new york, as i said, on the federal district court and 11 years on the circuit court of appeals. so she has been in the courtroom, on both sides of the bench, representing a variety of different kinds of clients. and she has written extensively. and i think that record reflects the kind of balance,