tv Political Programming CSPAN July 12, 2009 9:30pm-11:00pm EDT
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government money. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2009] sonia sotomayor was born in the pronchings. tonight, a look at the life and career of judge sotomayor from her friends and colleagues. >> when did you first meet sonia sotomayor? >> i met her in law school, during my first year at law school. >> and this was at yale? >> yes, in 1976. >> what were the circumstance sns >> we were friends with a common friend in her small group, and we met at a social occasion. a group of law students who were getting acclimated to a new situation. >> what did you have in common? >> we shared an interest -- i would say most importantly we
shared an interest in social justice. we both came to law school to advance that set of personal goals and immediately discovered that was a common bond. we also really enjoyed trying to figure out what actually was going on in the world, this world of the yale law school. so we enjoyed a really trying to analyze the culture that we were in. >> what was going on at yale law school at that time? >> well, it was both very exciting place. we had a class of people who were really very serious about both themselves and their futures. so there were many discussions about the role of the law as an agent of change and also the role of the law as an agent of civility. so there was lots of discussion about that.
we were also i would say in the second wave of women. so there were 41 women in our class out of about 180 students. very few faculty who were women. so we were also kind of navigating our way into a world that had opened up to us but where we were still relative new col comers. so that was also part of the journey. >> she came from princeton. where did you come from? >> i came from brown university. >> did she ever talk about princeton, about how she made that transition? >> that wasn't real lay big subject of discussion. we were focused on where we were, the work we were doing. and we were law journal colleagues together. so some talk about what it was like to write an article for the law journal we both wrote on and decided to play our leadership roles elsewhere besides in the law journal. so there was a lot of discussion of that as well.
>> let's talk about the law journal first. what was her role? >> she was an editor of the law journal. which meant that she works on other people's articles and she also wrote an article for the law journal, which was subsequently published. >> why have a law journal? who reads it and what's it for? >> well, it's a very good question. the idea is that we're trying to create knowledge to inform both the practitioners of law, judges, policy makers, and other researchers, law students are also entering into the field and so law journal articles are an opportunity to allow law students to express their view to use their research, to draw on the
resources of the law school to say something important about a pressing issue of the day. >> do you remember any of her articles? >> she wrote an article that was on -- i don't remember it -- with great precision, but it was on puerto rico and on the role of states rights in allocating i think it was natural resources. it was in many ways indicative of her as a thinker and as a subsequent jurrist. it is something that was most vated by a sense of justice, motivated by trying to understand problems excuted with great care and precision, a very careful and close reading of the case law. and really trying to do a thorough and thoughtful job to advance law in the best sense of the word. which i think is very typical of her then and typical of her
now. >> were you ever in a classroom situation together? >> i don't think we were actually in class together. i remember her more both socializing and then also brain storming ideas together in law school. >> let's talk about the brain storming first. what would happen? you said you kind of went to different leadership roles. she went to what? >> well, so she both led a policy journal, was on the executive leadership of a policy journal, and that was the part that i knew most about. and i actually took the route, as did she, of using law school as an opportunity to really develop ideas and to really go into depth about an area that i thought was deeply important and for which there was insufficient understanding.
and that we both shared as well. so paint us a picture of the two of you and a social setting or just whatever you would do and what this exchange of ideas might have looked like. >> well, i'm picturing us, i think in her apartment, although i can't be sure, with our feet up, but also sime tainsly laughing but also really in deep conversation and i would say constructive conflict around ideas that we were each trying to figure out where, both where we fit in but also more importantly this larger set of institutions and what it meant to be a lawyer and to be addressing this set
of issues which we came into initially out of a set of commitments but which we were now being socialized into a role. and what did that mean, and what was the relationship between one's role and what one was trying to accomplish. and the thing that i remember being struck by at the time was the degree to which she had a deep appreciation of role. that figuring out what it menlt to be initially a lawyer. what it meant to be a prosecutor. what it meant to be writing from the position of a law journal editor as opposed to a reporter. what it meant to be an advocate versus a judge. and i remember having an initial set of conversations about the relationship between role and content. that one's content was shaped
by the position you're in. and having a sense -- i remember having a sense of sonya as someone who had this kind of passion for the law and a deep set of commimts to figuring out what the role meant, whether you were a judge, whether you were a legislator, whether you were an advocate. >> and that has been some of the criticism of her, is she an advocate, is she a judge, is she a judge advocate. >> i think that's actually a misunderstanding of her, because what was clear was that -- then, and which i think has been much clearer now watching her on the bench and then having some conversations with her socially even in the last year, is what it means to have a strong sense of role is that she really develops her
opinions where she stands, how she inquires based on what it means to be a judge. so she's not an advocate. in law school she was coming in really figuring out where am ni this. and what role is going to -- what's the role that i want to occupy that will enable me to fulfill my public mission. having taken on the position of judge, she -- i would say she is as committed to the legislatesy of that role as anyone i've ever seen. so she is a very careful jurrist. she reasons through the decisions. and she's not advancing any kind of an agenda as an advocate. so that's what it means to be really attentive to her role. it means i'm in this position. what does one in this position
of judge, in a position of justice do in a way that will give both credibility and legislatesy to the institution that you're a part of. that seems to be her wired into how she operates and that's something that she started figuring out even when she was in law school. >> so that's the brain storming side. now let's go to the social side. what did the two of you do when you let your hair down? >> well, i don't think it would be -- look like letting your hair down all that much, i have to say. what i remember most is wonderful dinners, that she was someone that really enjoyed good food, and good food of all different kinds. so wonderful dinners. >> that you went out to? >> what i remember is i'm not the cook so it was sonya and others doing wonderful food.
and then just a real joy and deep conversation around issues of passionate interest to the group of people. and then finding the humor in that. so sonya was always somebody who both was very serious and committed but was also able to stand back with humility and laugh at herself. and understand herself in relation to a broader group. >> one thing i just have to say that really stands out to me about her then that i think she's held to even as she's become a judge is that she was someone who really paid attention to the content of what you were saying, whoever you were. rather than who you were. so she would listen to a good
argument or a persuasive view whether it came from the person on the street or the supreme court justice. she is someone who pays very close attention to what it is that people are saying and, at the same time, is not easily intimidated. so somebody who would push back if she disagreed and do it with grace and with respect, but also making sure that she got to the bottom of things. and that was something that was actually part of the enjoyment. we would do that socially, we would do it when we were brain storming about our ideas. >> so the peppering of lawyers that we hear that she is -- is known for was happening between you, between your friends at a
dinner party as well as in a class room? >> yes. she asks great hard questions. and she does so with an interest to really understand at a very deep level and with an open mindedness about rethinking her own position if what she hears justifies that rethinking process. were were there other social thing that is you would do? were there any sports? anything else, cards, games? >> i remember listening to music. but actually, i would have to say what stands out in my mind is food and deep conversation. >> the class. how would you say she fit in terms of the class? were there many other latinos in the class? >> no. very few actually. so she was breaking new ground,
although she was not somebody who presented herself with that as her mark of identity. she is somebody who mingled with a wide range of people. she was somebody who both seemed to celebrate where she came from but didn't define herself solely by where she came from but by where she was going and what her interests were. so she was someone who was very well integrated into the intellectual life of the law school, she was a vibrant part of the law journal which was the center of the intellectual life in many respects of the students, although there were many other centers as well. she is also somebody who was very active in some of the social issues that were
relevant at the time. >> like? >> well, if i'm remembering correctly, this does not stand out very vividly, but that she was, she did some clinical work while she was at law school and was very involved in that community as well. she was active, although this is not something that i had direct contact with, she was active in the latino organization at yale and i think played a leadership role in that as well. so she wore many hats in law school. and was a very active presence. >> do you remember your graduation? >> i remember it vaguely. >> were you all together or was there anything -- were there good-byes? how did that work? >> we were all together.
there was some kind of a cocktail party afterwards and there was an opportunity to say our good-byes and reminisce a little bit. >> how often do you talk to her or have you seen her since then? >> well, in the last, since i came to columbia in -- i joined the faculty, i visited in 1999 and joined the faculty in 2000 we have rekindled our friendship. we both speak about sometimes about potential law clerks. we talk about teaching. and then we've had dinner on a number of occasions to basically share our lives. >> we'll have live coverage of the confirmation hearing beginning at 10:00 a.m. we talked about the confirmation process with michael o'neal, former staff director and chief counsel of
the senate judiciary committee who is now at george mason university school of law in arlington, virginia. >> well, i was primarily tasked with advising the judiciary committee principally senator specter at that time, who was chairman of the committee, as well as the republican members of the committee both in terms of setting up the hearings and getting the hearings rolling and briefing the members athey prepared for the hearings, and also as staff director of the committee in setting up the staffing because we had a considerable staffing hire prior to the hearings. >> what was the size of the committee? >> the size of the committee when i was there, i think there were around 60 plus lawyers and prostaff. we hired separate people just to work on the supreme court hearings themselves but we obviously had the continual work of the committee. we had other nominations, we had a full legislative agenda.
>> what was your relationship during the nomination process? >> it was a great relationship. at least i would like to think it was a great relationship. he was a demanding chairman. he was somebody who wanted to be prepared. so he went through a great deal of work in terms of preparing him to make sure he was ready to conduct the first supreme court hearing i think in 11 years. and obviously worked with a lot of members to help prepair them and their staffs. >> were there any strategies? >> absolutely. we had a number of strategy sessions. we had strategy sessions with the white house, the department of justice, among the members just with the chairman deciding on the timing of the hearings. obviously president bush not only president obama today wanted to see his first nominee seated before the start of the october term. and so those sorts of meetings were very important in terms of setting tup schedule. but obviously senator specter, chairman spector was trying to
be very solicitous of the democrats as well recognizing that they needed to be prepared for the hearings and wanted to make sure that he was fair. >> did you talk about the question that is the senators were going to be asking the nominees during these session sns >> absolutely. among the things that we did to prepare, one of the first thing that is we did as soon as the it was announced that there was going to be a retirement, that somebody was going to be leaving the court, we want through and got all of the past supreme court hearings transdelapets we could. we primarily focused on the bryor, the ginsburg, and the thomas hearings. we also looked at the bork hearings as what someone shouldn't do i guess in preparation for a hearing. but we looked at all the supreme court hearing transcripts that we had available to us in the modern age. we went through those with just a fine toothed comb. we looked carefully at the questions that the republicans and the current republican members asked. we also looked at the questions the democrats asked as well.
so we wanted a good idea about the sorts of questions that were likely to be asked. we also went through and looked at other transcripts of some of the other court of appeals hearings and district court hearings. just to get a flavor of the type of questions, the thing that is i thought the staff should focus on in terms of preparing their members for the hearing. >> were the transcripts part of the documents that we hear about that the nominee is required to submit to the committee, or were they separate? >> they were separate. most of that kind of work was done prior to actually having a nominee. once we had a nominee, once the president had announced a nominee, then obviously most of the focus is looking at the nominee's record. there was obviously a big difference between say chief justice roberts when he was nominated e versus when justice alito was nominated. he had been on the court of appeals for quite a long time. chief justice roberts had not sat that long.
so we didn't have a thick appellate record to review in the same way we did for justice alito. he was a very active appellate lawyer before the supreme court and the various and sundayry courts of appeals. so we had a lot of his work to look at. you get background questionnaires that you have to vet in the committee. and all that material was really looked over with a fine toothed comb. >> that material is coming from a team of folks over at the white house and the justice department that is preparing the nomneefplt what's your relationship with them during that process? >> our relationship, we had a very close relationship with the white house and the department of justice. they consulted a lot with chairman spector. they knew that he was going to be someone who was important in terms of running the hearing. our staffs worked closely with their staffs in terms of getting materials and information from them making sure that those materials were disseminated not just the to the republican staff but also the democratic staff as well. one thing that chairman spector
was absolutely insistent on and that's when we received materials, that the democrats received materials as well because we were all members preparing for these hearings and he wanted to make sure they were done as fairly as possible. >> did you take into account any ratings that interest groups put out during the process? >> people look of course at the american bar association, the american bar association has come under some criticism at times for their ratings. but i think people, that's the largest organization that represents lawyers and people still look at those sorts of things. i think that more important, though, is really the nominee, him or herself in looking at that person's record, their scholarly record or academic record, their performance as a lawyer. those are the sorts of thing that is the committee really looked more closely at. i think the a.b.a. tries to play it pretty fairly. and i think each side will use outside interest groups,
whether to promote those things or to trump it if they get a bad rating. >> so is that the benchmark, the a.b.a. rating? is that the benchmark that everybody looks to? >> no. i think the benchmark that people look to, and i think rightly so, is what their opinion is after having reviewed the entire record of the nominee. i think the members really take it pretty serious pli and obviously for the supreme court in particular, that's something that's so important for the country and the american people that i think members take it very serious pli. and i don't think any of them were beholden to any outside interest group, whether it was partisan or nonpartisan. they really wanted to look at and review the records themselves for their own purposes so that they could make as candid assessment of the record and could make a judgment whether they believed that the nominee was qualified. >> so when these records are deloifered the staff, what is the staff looking for?
>> well, you're looking for a couple of different things. obviously in today's world, we were probably with the first supreme court nomination where you really had access to the internet. the internet was being widely used as something to be -- to research people. staff, you're looking for a couple different things. you're looking to add full nsdz to the person's record so you can understand them both as a lawyer and human being. a lot of that information comes out of newspaper reports. the media is important. articles they may have written. all that gives you a fuller picture for the nominee. obviously people who are looking for unsavory things about the nominee, thing that is they can use to attack. as a lawyer preparing the nominee, you want to know what those things are because you want to be able to defend the nominee against those attacks. and if you're predisposed po not liking them, coupt to be able to use that information to
dam the nominee as well. >> so during these sessions do you work with the majority staff in your case about the way the democrats will be questioning? >> absolutely. we tried to sort of based upon past questions of supreme court nominees and past questions of court of appeals nominees, we try to guess what all the members will be interested in, what areas they were going to be likely to focus on. senator kennedy for example has been a long time, very important and historic figure in terms of civil rights movement. we knew one of the areas that he would want to question people about. senator hatch is also interested in federalism, the appropriate role of state and federal government. and we knew that was something senator hatch was going to be asking about. we also know based on what counter supreme court cases going on, what are the sorts of constitutional law issues that members are going to be interested in. one of the thing that is we did for senator specter is that we
went through all of the major constitutional law topics of the day and basically create add series of briefing memo force him about what the current state of the law was. what was going on with miranda versus arizona, what was going on with racial preferences. what was going on with the voting rights act. what was going on with executive branch relations, war powers acts. certainly during the bush administration what was the power of the executive branch branch. what was the limits of article 2 authority? all those things we tried to digest into memoranda both for senator specter and other members in particular to bring them up to speed on the important constitutional issues today. >> there's been a lot of talk about the staff not having enough time between the time that the documents have been submitted and the heavierings take place. did you feel when you were staff director during the alito and roberts nominations your staff had enough time to go through all the records that were available to you?
>> it's difficult. even with a fairly large staff, if you've got somebody who sat on the bench, for example, as long as justice alito had, it is difficult to make it through all the cases. when you're not only going through the cases, you're going through somebody's record, like in his case when he was the u.s. attorney in new jersey or as a lawyer when they're practicing law. so it is difficult to get all that information digested. you have to rely to a certain extent on what the media does in reading newspaper accounts, reading newspaper stories. it's impossible to ferret everything out. especially given the fact that you're focused more on the person's legal record. and the way these nominations have kind of gone, there's an expectation, sometimes that isn't fulfilled but there's an expectation if you're republicans for example and you have a republican administration nominating somebody, that you're going to be responsible for defending
that person. and the role that the democrats played, they're the loyal opposition, that they're going to be much more searching in terms of their questioning and that they're going to be more concerned about the nominee's record because of the sort of partisan nature of politics, not just today but probably forever. there's certain expected roles that people expect you to fulfill and a certain amount of that is a self-full philing prophesy. >> once the hearings start, what's your role? >> the primary role is to make sure that the member is properly prepared in terms of the questions. in senator specter's case, he liked to write up his own questions. we had a number of different meetings where we would all sit together and talk about these constitutional law issues. or if he had a particular concern about an individual's record, we would talk about that concern. we would talk about interpretations of the law, how we thought this person was likely to rule on individual
cases, what this person's belief about the rule of law or the appropriates in of article 3 and the role of the judiciary and our constitutional system was. so we would sit down and talk about those things. senator specter largely would write his own questions. we would write questions as well that we would recommend to him about certain areas of the law. we would write questions and make recommendations to other members as well. because i viewed our staff -- the judiciary staff is set up so the chairman and ranking member have a number of different staffers. . .
>> he would ask a question about it, and as best as i could, i would provide him with an answer. >> what about at the end of each hearing at the end of the day, we do have another session with the chairman or the republican staff or senators on the committee? >> we would sit down with the chairman and talk about how the day had unfolded and whether we thought the nominee was doing a good job answering questions, whether he thought the nominee was being responsive to the questions he was answering, and whether he thought the nominee was being responsive to the questions the other members were asking. we sat down with committee
staffers for each of the members and talk about the same things and go through and coronate what questions would be asked the next day. if the member wants to ask a particular line of questions, obviously they will be able to ask those questions. we try to avoid duplication. if it is the 11th time you are being asked whether you believe in the second amendment, it can get redundant. we want to make sure you are not just repeating the same things but covering a broad stance. >> unlike the alito and roberts nomination, the democrats are still in charge -- the democrats are in charge. how will that change the dynamics? >> the dynamics probably will not change that much. now you have chairman leahy, a longtime member of the senate, longer than arlen specter was. he is a cordial chairman. he is a fair man and will be a fair chairman and presiding over these hearings. he has been doing it for a long
time. you have chairman leahy and a majority of democrats on the committee, and you are working with a democratic administration. now the democrats are in the role that we fulfilled for the bush administration in terms of trying to be helpful to the nominee. again, you want to do a searching review of the nominee's record and you want to do right by your constituents in your home state and fulfill your proper role, but there is an expectation that you will be out there helping the nominee as well. now the republicans, instead of trying to push a nominee through to make sure they are on the bench for the first monday of tumor -- monday in october, they will be trying to review the record more thoroughly, and being the loyal opposition. >> have you been in touch with people and the senate judiciary committee? rex absolutely. >> what would be your advice for
them on how to handle the hearing? >> this is something i learned from senator specter and from senator hatch as well, who also worked for. the most important thing you can do is to be fair. be fair to the other side, been over backwards to make sure that every eye is dotted -- every i is dotted and every t is cross. be sure they get the opportunity and the time that they need to review and question the nominee. you cannot tell the process when you do it fairly. i have every expectation that chairman leahy will be extremely fair in the same way senator specter was. >> michael o'neill, thank you very much. >> i hope that was helpful. >> tonight, we are talking with friends and colleagues of judge sonia sotomayor, a supreme court
nominee whose confirmation hearing begins tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.. one of those scheduled to testify at that hearing is new york district attorney robert morgenthau. he hired judge sotomayor are as a prosecutor for the district attorney's office. >> district attorney robert morgenthau, the first time you met sonia sotomayor or, do you remember? >> i do. >> were was it? >> at the indiana law school. it was 1978 or early 1979. cracks were redoing there? >> recruiting. >> recruiting for -- >> the district attorney's office. i was in the hall and i met a professor at the yale law school and asked him if he had any good candidates for me. he thought a moment and said
yes, i think i have one. i don't think she ever thought of being an assistant district attorney, but she would be good, and it would be good for her and good for you. he said her name is sonia sotomayor. i said if she was interested, have her call me. >> the interview her in this room? the remember? >> yes, i did. i interviewed everybody in this room. i interview everybody before they are hired. she had an incredible academic record. she had come from a parochial high school and on to princeton. she told me she had trouble with the language her first year, but that a professor had taken an interest in her and she spent the summer with him and his
family. she wrote an essay every day, and she ended up graduating with honors. she added to the law journal. i was impressed by her common sense, her no-nonsense. i am always looking for people who can relate to victims and witnesses, and i thought she could, and i was not wrong. >> that relation to victims and witnesses -- what does it take to have that ability? >> you have to have an understanding of people, and you cannot be arrogant. you cannot think you are smarter than anybody else. even though she was very smart, she had the ability to communicate. we did a survey fairly early on. we found that the number one reason for dismissal of cases
was because the victims and witnesses would refuse to testify. we want to be sure that whoever came back would have a good ability but could relate to victims and witnesses to persuade them to testify and testify truthfully. >> it was 1979, and you were at yale looking for lawyers. the professor, who is now a judge, was the one who ended up. have the two of you ever talked about -- was it a chance meeting? >> it was a chance meeting, although he and i were founding directors of the puerto rico legal defense fund, so i knew him, but it was just a chance meeting in the hall. i asked him if he had anybody for us, so it was fortuitous. >> when you brought her into this office, what job did she have?
>> she had the same job that she came in with the class of 1979 after labor day. she went through training program and then would handle misdemeanors initially, turnstile jumpers and so on. >> is that what you call trawl bureau 50? >> we have six trial bureaus that are identical in function. the reason we have six is that we do not want them to be on duty the same day, so they rotate. she was in the trial bureau 50. >> i know every day is different here now, and has to be. if you had to describe what a normal day would have been like at that. time for her as an assistant d.a., how would you describe it.
>> on intake, they had to meet with the arresting officer. dad had to evaluate his testimony and had to meet with witnesses if there were any. then i would write up the complaint and handle the arraignment. >> right then and there? >> right then and there. if there were a delay in fingerprints or something coming back, it would be put over, but most of the cases, once they get in the complaint room, they would be arraigned out that day. they would carry 60 or 70 cases. >> they would continue with that and continue doing intake? >> that day, but they had a lot of balls in the air and had to be careful that none of them fell and hit them in the head.
she had the capacity to handle a lot of work. the judges who set in the arraignment boards competed with each other to see how many cases they could dispose of in an eight hour time. they used to push the assistance around, but no one pushed sonia sotomayor around. >> what kind of style which she used to deal with people on one level, as you said, and the good at it, and also not allow herself to be pushed around? >> she just was very even tempered. she was prepared to the extent that you can be when you are handling that many cases. she became well-known very quickly as one of the new assistance that you could not push around.
>> there was a question as to whether at that time, the professor said he did not know whether she would be interested in being in the district attorney's office. did you have to convince her? >> no. she had only applied at that point to private firms. maybe i had to convince ouher. she really did not say she had to think about it. >> how many assistance which you have had that year? >> probably about 50. >> is that how many have today? >> yes. >> i read somewhere that the salary at that time was $17,000 a year. >> that sounds right. >> was that considered good? >> not really, no. but as i told applicants, the
difference between coming to work for the district attorney's office and going into private practice, you go into private practice, you are an employee, an associate. when you come to the district attorney's office, the day you walk in, you are a partner. the junior partners and senior partners and there is one senior senior partner. you get a lot of responsibility very quickly. >> how often we do have one on one meetings with any of the assistants? >> only if they had a case. we always had a lot for them, but after they started, later on we had a reception for them, but only if they were having a case that i was interested in. >> were there any large cases that she dealt with during that period that you would have been working with her on? >> two major races. one was a so-called -- two major
cases. one was a so-called person burglar robert who would swing down from a rooftop on a rope and rob people. he would reject he committed three murders during the course of this rampage. she tried that case along with another assistant, and they put him away for 137 years to life. he is still in there. >> what about the other case? >> the other case was a child pornography case. we have had difficulty with child pornography cases, because under the old law, you had to show that the film or whatever it was appealed to the prurient interest of the viewer. there was an able draw lawyer from buffalo used to come out and represent these defendants.
-- and able trial lawyer. he would say i cannot believe this appeals to prurient interest, and the jurors would say no. we got a change in the statute to bring it under the child welfare law, the basis being that using children in pornographic films was a violation of the child welfare law. that case went to the supreme court. it was the people vs. fervor. they upheld the constitutionality of it, and she tried the first case. >> she would have been here 30 years ago. at that time, you had been da about five years? >> yes. >> she came in 1979 and stayed there 1984. >> when you think about the possibility of her sitting as a justice on the supreme court,
what do you see in the current justices today that you also see in judge sotomayor, in terms of legal, personal, or whatever? >> she is highly intelligent. she believes in the rule of law. she is a good listener, and i think has excellent judgment. when i first got out of law school, i had the good luck to work for judge robert p. patterson, who had been a judge of the court appeals of the second circuit. i had some familiarity with judicial thinking. i thought she was outstanding, and i think she will be outstanding. she will be the only judge on that court who has tried cases
at the local level, so she knows what the issues are, the trauma that a victim undergoes, the difficulty the police have been making a case, and the difficulty of prosecuting. she also understands the impact that a federal decision will have on state courts. people tend to forget that more than 90% of the people in correctional institutions are sent there by state prosecutors. to have only one judge on the accord to understands the problems of the state system, that is extremely important. >> one of the criticisms of the judge has been whether personal thoughts come into our legal
ideas. how would you deal with your assistant district attorneys about their own personal opinions about certain things and how to keep that out of their judicial life? >> that was certainly never a problem with her. she believed in the rule law. she believed in enforcing the law. we never saw that as a problem. >> did you have other assistant d.a.'s who you would have to work with about that? >> once in a great wall, but generally not. we have guidelines. we have a practice manual. if they do not want to follow the guidelines, they have to check with their bureau chief. if it is serious, they have to check with me. we never had a case where she did not want to follow the guidelines. >> i read that it was hard work, hard play, in an almost self-
contained world. would you describe your office in that way? >> well, it certainly is hard work. some assistancets want to try cases by the seat of their pants. she was always prepared. you have to get out and interview witnesses. it is certainly not a job where you can live in your own world. that is one of the things we always look for, someone who can come in and relate to the community and witnesses. if you do not have the cooperation of victims and witnesses, you can be the best trial lawyer in the world and get nowhere. texted her ability to speak
several languages help her? >> always. we would get a lot of witnesses who weren't hispanic, latino. sure, that is an asset -- we would get witnesses who were hispanic. there were no latino assistants. now we have 119. >> did you have very many women in the group? >> we had 19 women. now we have 268. that is a big change. >> did you have to work to get those numbers up? >> initially, yes. nancy ryan has jurisdiction over all the trauma bureaus -- over
the trial bureaus. i have had to cheat assistance to women. -- i have had to assistance -- two assistants who work women. >> what it buys would you give sonia sotomayor or when she walks into the hearings? >> just tell the truth. she will be her own best advocate. >> as she is testifying, you will be getting ready to celebrate your 90th birthday, is that correct? >> i think it is. last time i checked, it was. >> what are your plans over the next year? >> my plans are limited to this year. i have a lot of cases in the pipeline, and i want to try to get them all out before i leave. there is a lot of important work to be done between now and year end. that is what i am concentrating on.
>> one final question. how would you compare the crime of the city of new york in 1979 and the jobs of the assistant d.a.'s at that time versus what is happening today? >> there is more white-collar crime now. there is more fraud and corruption and the corporate level, more identity theft. when i became district attorney, there were 648 murders in manhattan. last year there were 62. so that has freed up resources to deal with the newer kinds of crime. 9 percent of our felony cases are identity theft. there is a whole area of immigration fraud. i think the way the federal government handles immigration
cases is a national disgrace. we have set up a special unit to deal with that. when immigrants are victims of crime, they are afraid to testify. we have a policy where we will not refer any case involving an illegal immigrant to federal authorities, just because they have abused their power to such an extent. >> thank you very much. >> thank you for the opportunity. >> now, new york attorney elkan abramowitz. he has argued cases before judge sotomayor war. we talked about his impressions of the supreme court nominee. >> you were quoted recently as saying that judge sotomayor your was a natural choice for the president to make to the supreme court. what do you mean by natural?
>> i mean that she will bring to the court the same talents that she has shown on both the district court and the circuit court of appeals. that is a person who strives to get to the bottom of the arguments. she will press litigants' until they answer questions, maybe not to her satisfaction, but at least she will understand the argument that is being made. that is something that i think too many appellate judges forsake. they just sit and listen to the arguments that are prepared. from the litigants' point of view, they do not know what is bothering the court and what is really something that could be straightened out in oral arguments. to the extent that she peppers lawyers with questions, and that certainly was my experience, i
think that is a good thing. it will give the litigants and opportunity to try and persuade her that she may be going down the wrong path. she is very open to that. i think generally she is a natural. i stick with that quote. >> when did you first meet her and argue for her? >> they are 1 and the same. i first met her in connection with a district court case, i would say 1995 or 1996. it was a routine criminal case, white collar criminal case. i do not remember the details now, but i was impressed by the fact that she showed no preconceived bias one way or the other. she was neither pro-government or pro defendant. whatever the issue was, i felt at the time that she handled it straight, meaning that she
showed no particular bias one way or the other. what happens to many judges is they get a reputation after some period of time, after being known as a pro-government judge or a pro defendant judge. she gave me the impression from the outset that she called it down the middle. >> does that ever cause you a problem? is it easier to argue before judge that you at least know is one side or the other? >> it is, actually. it is easier to argue before someone who is going to decide it on the basis of the particular facts and the law. if you have a judge that has preconceived notions, it is almost impossible to change that person's views. as a lawyer, i have a particular issue i want raised and decided on the merits, not because somebody favors defendants are favors a government. i really did get the impression
the right from the first time i met her that she would call it straight down the middle. she was very fact specific. she wanted to know precisely what the case was about. i do not remember the details, but i felt that she was going to give everybody in that courtroom a fair shake, including the government. >> thank the picture for people who may not have ever seen in district court -- paint the picture. how does a case like that pay out to play out, and where would she play into it? >> the district court is where trials are held, but before any trial is held, there are pretrial proceedings, generally involving motions directed on discovery issues or motions to dismiss an indictment if it was improperly brought, or if it does not state a crime. issues like that in the criminal
field. in the civil field, it would be involving motions for readjustment and motions to clarify the litigation. the district court judge is the judge of first impression on cases. after a trial or a case is resolved, it then goes to the intermediate appellate level in the federal system, which she also is serving on, and occasionally it will go to the supreme court. >> does it make any difference for a district like the new york district here to have somebody on the supreme court? is there any kind of regional -- it helps a little bit because she knows our people, she knows our backs and our geography? >> that is an interesting question. i do not know the answer to it.
i think that appellate judges, and she has been for a number of years, coming from the district court and also serving in the same location as the district court, probably no the judge's, certainly on a superficial -- they probably know the kegan judge -- probably no the judges. >> i think she would be more issue oriented than personality oriented. a case involved sanctions against a lawyer and a district court judge imposing those sanctions. her personal relationship there may have impacted, although it did not, she overruled the
judge. when you get to the supreme court, you are really dealing more with issues and less with personalities, so i do not think it will have an impact. >> is there a progression of a judge's live in the roads between the district court and the appellate court that she would go through to get to the supreme court if she were confirmed? >> to the extent that the issues she faced as a circuit court judge are somewhat different from the issues she is going to face as a supreme court judge, but not obviously entirely. one of the cases the supreme court is going to decide deals with one of her cases of reverse discrimination. there are many occasions where the issues would be almost the
same. the issues in the supreme court tend to be broader and more national unless specifically related to litigation issues, which she face on the circuit court. >> how do you prepare to argue before her? >> you prepare as you would be for any judge. you have to know the case backwards and forwards. one of the interesting differences between the american system and the english system for appellate advocacy is that, as far as i understand it, i am told that the house of lords takes as long as they need to decide an appeal and hear arguments. sometimes arguments there can go on for days. what is unusual here, both in the circuit court and the supreme court, there are time
limitations as to how long you are permitted to argue. they are usually strictly enforced. in the supreme court, i am told , they are routinely in force. in the circuit court, sometimes they will grant you more time. you know in dance that you have 10 minutes or 12 minutes. in a case that has taken years to get to the point of an appeal. you have to figure out a way in preparation to get your argument down so that you get the point across to the judges. this is where her reputation as a pepperer of questions comes in. sometimes she could take the full 10 minutes and asked any questions. i am told she will keep asking questions until she really understands the answers that are given.
judges sometimes give you more time to finish. i think that is a plus. if you know what is bothering a judge and may be bothering the other judges on the panel, you have to focus in on the argument. i think that is what is so important about having a dialogue as opposed to just ending their in arguing for 10 minutes. i prepare by just knowing everything and trying to anticipate what the questions are going to be and responding to them. >> with nine justices there, and she would be one of nine asking the questions in that short period of time, it is likely there will be more give-and- take versus less give-and-take than their will be now in the court. >> i do not know whether justice souter was a pepperer of
questions. i do not think he was. from what i have heard and seen of -- from what i have heard and seen, justice scalia is. my sense is that justice sotomayor were will be. i do not know whether any one of them will dominate the entire proceeding, but i think you can expect that she would ask a serious number of questions if she had some problem with the case. >> you mentioned justice scalia. he is also a justice who many times uses humor from the court. have you ever seen judge sotomayor or use humor as a way of getting to her point or peppering the attorneys? >> my experience with her humor, and she has a great sense of humor, was not from my experience in arguing in front of her. she had invited me to
participate in a class that she taught at columbia law school on appellate advocacy. she invited me and another lawyer to talk to the class and answer their questions about how we prepare for arguments and make arguments. she had a very nice sense of humor, a very warm approach to the whole process. then she took us all to dinner, and we had a great time. she is charming woman and has a great american story. it was great to spend that kind of time with her. she is a very down-to-earth, blunt, a charming person. in the conferences in the supreme court, i think she would bring that personality there and i think it would be helpful. >> we made that presentation,
what kind of reaction did you get from the students? did you get any feel for how she ran her glasses? -- how she ran her classes? >> the class was held in her chambers, so the students came down and were all sitting in her conference room. was a very warm feeling. it was sitting around a table and just talking it out. she picked up on the points that the other lawyer and i were making and gave other examples from her experiences with other lawyers. i thought it was well received. i could not get a sense that there was anything more than that. it was just this one class. >> did you disagree with you at all? >> i think so. she disagrees with me a lot. that is something that just does not bother me, but if she did,
she would say so. that is fine. >> can you give an example of when you might have disagreed over the years? >> i cannot. i am sure that at some point in my argument in front of her -- actually, what happened there is that i really thought i was going to lose the case because she was asking questions from the other side of the argument. i felt at the time of the argument that i was running uphill, but ultimately, she ruled my way. i think she was trying to get the best answers she could. to that extent, she disagreed with me, but i do not want to say that she did not agree with me before she started the questioning. it was part of her process in learning all she could from what i had to say on my side of the case. >> the people who watch the court talk about the arguments
and that the peppering, know whether it -- matter where it comes from, can be deceiving. you may think you are losing and they might be really on your side. my question is, if she is confirmed, is this the kind of -- we will not know by her questioning in oral arguments where she stands. >> probably not. there may be occasions that you would, but i think she does that because she really is interested in getting to the essence of what the decision that she has to make is. it is not a game. it is not like law school where the judges ask questions for the sake of asking questions. that is not it at all. if she has decided i am right, she wants to make sure that the other side gets a fair shake, so
she will ask tough questions while i am the one doing the argument. i find that exhilarating, and that is what i like about appellate work and appellate abacuses. but it is not a game. she is not doing it just to see how good a lawyer you are. she really is trying to get to the bottom of your argument. >> as the confirmation hearings continue, i want to ask you if you have any advice for the members of congress who will be sitting there asking her questions during the confirmation period. what would you recommend to them? >> i think they should ask the questions of our that she would as a judge asked of them. by that i mean i do not think they should be asking or shaping their questions from their own political viewpoint.
i believe justice sotomayor or is not a political judge. she certainly has political views. every person on the court does, but i do not think she will be the type of judge that will view every case through her political prism. my advice to the senators is, if you want to know what kind of judge she will be on the supreme court, find out what kind of lawyer she is and what kind of approach she takes towards judging cases, and not spend your time questioning her about things that she did at college and things that she may have done in high school, what i deem to be irrelevant questions. >> tell me a little bit about your firm in new york. >> my firm started out many years ago as a three or four person firm and has now grown into a 60-lawyer firm. it is all litigation, mostly
federal. it is about half white collar criminal defense and have commercial and civil. >> thank you very much. >> more concerning the confirmation process with jamie brown. she is former special assistant to president bush for legislative affairs and was part of the team that shepherded justice alito and chief justice roberts the confirmation hearing. >> i was responsible for the senate strategy for both she justice roberts and justice alito. that involved determining which courtesy visits should be held at which time, prepping each of the nominees for the courtesy visits, accompanying them to the courtesy visits, debriefing the team after the visits were done, and then working with the lawyers as we were getting ready for the confirmation hearings,
and then working with the maddy review committee and leadership staff in getting them confirmed. >> how large was the team that prepared the nominees? >> there were probably 12-15 people who were working full time on the nominations and a large number of folks who would spend part of their days. it was definitely a massive effort in the white house and justice department to staff the various aspects of this, whether that legal work, communications were, the grass-roots outrage. it was a great team effort. >> once the president makes the nomination for the supreme court, how did you get involved? >> once and justice o'connor announced that she would be retiring, i was pulled off all my other legislative responsibilities. i was part of the legislative affairs team.
i was pulled off those responsibilities and was spending full time getting ready for the announcement of cheese justice roberts. -- chief justice roberts. it was in intensive time. i was part of a team that involve communicators and the legal team as well. we spent our time working with senate leadership and judiciary step on framing the messages about what a nominee should be like, what to expect, how to consult with the senate and the fact we are doing a lot of consultation and talking about what the process should be like for the nominee and how they should be treated. it should be as expedited as possible. >> is there any difference between the preparation for the roberts confirmation hearing
versus alito? >> probably because with chief justice roberts, we had not had the nomination process for over a decade on the republican side. we are doing things for the first time, especially in this day and age with the internet explosion and the use of blogs and social networking and the various tools we have now. those were not around the last time we had a supreme court confirmation. there was a lot of figuring out how the process should play out. once we had gone through that with chief justice roberts, on the heels of that we have the confirmation process for the second vacancy. it was a tiny bit easier because we had just gone through it, but you still have to handle the nominee's record, and with justice alito, he had been on the federal bench for well over a decade, so we had an enormous number of opinions to work with
and get to the committee. cricks one of your response abilities -- >> tell us about your experience on the hill visits. >> the courtesy visits are incredibly important as part of the process. is an opportunity for the potential allies and supporters of the nominee to get to know them better, and they hope they can make a connection with the center and the center will be even more motivated -- the center will be motivated to give statements in support of the nominee and do other things that will help the process be a success. you want to build your support for those personal visits. you have an opportunity to show those opposed to your nomination that you are strong and an engaging person. the senator will realize that your nominee will come across very well in the confirmation hearing. if that is the case, they will
not be extra combative with the nominee. so it helps set the table for the hearings coming up. it is an opportunity to get a sense of the questions that they are likely to face at the hearing. >> is it the goal to meet with all 100 senators? >> the goal is to meet with both all the senators that you hope will support you and also any senator who asked for a meeting. you end up meeting with almost everyone in the senate. with both justice roberts and justice alito, they each met with over 80 senators apiece. i hear a term that people in your job are given. what is that? rex is a colorful term. it basically explains that the role is to help the person up the mountain to confirmation. at my level, i have a lot of
background experience with the various centers as a liaison to the jews to sherry committee -- to the judiciary committee. i had working relationships with their senior staff as well. i could give the nominee a sense of where the senators might be coming from in their questioning and a sense of their personality and keep them updated on the process and how it would play out. we also had more senior sherpas. each of those former senators had great depth and breadth of personal relationships with their former colleagues. they have a set of experiences and insight that you cannot replicate anywhere else. it was great to have been there
to talk the nominee through what to expect and give them insights on the senators. it also enable them to talk to their former colleagues about how the nomination was going and if there were recommendations for ways to improve. >> next comes the practice sessions cold water boards. tell us about that term and your experience? >> it is a terrible term to explain that part of the process. even though they are all smart and capable lawyers, the stakes are so high that is critical to have thorough preparation. your goal for the process is to go through a period of refreshingly the nominees memory of all their opinions that could be considered controversial or sources of questioning and give them an opportunity to remember
that, and you set up a series of what are called mortarboards. they will play the roles and ask the types of questions you think they will ask, and put the nominee through the paces. the goal of the murder board is that you wowanted to be harder than anything they will face when they are under the hot lights. it is one of the most high- profile job interviews that you have in the american government, so you want to get them ready for that. >> different members of the team are playing the role of chairman, ranking members, and other members of the judiciary committee? >> exactly. there are three sources to look for potential questions.
you look at the nominees writings or opinions, articles and speeches they have given over the years. you also look to the questions that have been asked in courtesy visits to see what the senators seem to be interested in, and you look at what they have asked a prior nominees. >> tells about the nominee's preparation in filling out all the documents that have to be submitted prior to the hearings. >> it is probably the least favored part of the process for any nominee. it is an expensive list of questions. you are pulling together in every possible thing you have written or public speech you have given. it involves a lot of people. probably her clerks have helped gather that information, and people at the federal appeals level where they work. it is a huge team effort to pull all that together.
>> it's independent research? do you rely on media sources or transcripts from court documents? >> all of the above. the nominee will obviously be able to get their hands on all of their opinions through working with the clerks at the appellate level. you also do standard search is to find any publicly available speeches or press mentions of the nominee. they will go into their own records at home. you are doing due diligence to find anything that is possibly available. >> justice alito and roberts -- you were in the hearing room. what was that experience like? i noticed a picture over your shoulder from the alito hearings. >> it was an incredible experience. it is a privilege to be part of
something that is historical and such a significant part of our system of government. with chief justice roberts, his hearing was held in the russell caucus room, which is a room with great historical significance. a lot of important events have occurred there. there was a real sense of excitement, because it had been a long time since we had a supreme court confirmation process. it took awhile for the various members of the committee to go through and give their opening statements. they all get their statements, and then the people who were there to introduce the chief gave their introductions, and then it was turned over to chief justice roberts for his opening statement. it was an incredible toward a force. it was a very strong statement. he just had a sense that he was
on his way to confirmation. it was incredibly exciting. with justice alito, it was a similar experience. as we were going to the process, chief justice roberts was such a strong nominee and impressed the senate. there was a running joke towards the end that they felt sorry for the person who has to go through it next. amazingly, justice alito, in his own way, was just as stellar of a nominee. it was an incredible privilege to be able to help support both of those gentlemen as they were going to the process. the hearings are long. they take place over a few days. part of it was just the nominee being able to physically set under the hot lights and under questioning whether any one question, if you answer it the wrong way, could flare up and cause a controversy that that could imperil your nomination.
it is pretty grueling. >> did anything happen that surprise you in either of those confirmation hearings? >> not really. like us said before, your goal as a team preparing the nominee is to not have any surprises at the hearing. we knew where the lines of attack would come and what types of questions they would get. certainly unexpected was the emotional toll that it took on mrs. alito during the questioning. it was just unfair and deeply personal attacks, so that certainly wasn't a surprise. -- it certainly was a surprise. that sum up the toll it takes on the family when your loved one is under such scrutiny and attack. >> at the end of each hearing, did you have a strategy session with the nominee to talk about the next day's hearing?
>> nothing really lengthy. when you have set under the hot lights for eight hours undergoing questioning, the last thing they want to do was spend anymore time with us. the most important thing they could do was get home, have a good night's sleep, and i smell with their family, and relax a little bit. we would total in are holding rooms and talk about how the day it went, but it was not anything exhaustive with the nominee. as a team, we were never off the clock during the hearings. it was constantly responding to unfair characterizations of opinions that you might have had, highlighting the good answers that the nominee's day. for us, there were no breaks. >> for the alito and roberts nomination, you had a republican president and republican chairing the committee. this time, it is a democratic president and the democrats are the majority. how do you think that will change the process of the
hearing and also a preparation that judge sotomayor or had to go through to get ready for the hearings? >> i believe it is fairly similar. even though the senate was controlled by the same party as the president during our process, what i saw time and time again every day was that the members of the senate have a firm belief in the separation of powers. and have a constitutional role in the process to provide their advice and consent, and they took it seriously. even though they were in the same party, they went to the process and a very diligent way and really came to their own conclusions about how they wanted to vote. >> what advice would you have for the sherpas that are shepherding judge sotomayor nor's nomination to the conclusion? >> you want to make sure you are with the nominee as much as possible. they are having conversations
with senators, you want to be there for that and have a record of what they have said, especially in private business. you want to make sure there are no surprises. anything you can reap the nominee on in terms of a senator and what they care about, even if it goes back to their personal life. you want to make sure you have given your nominee every piece of information possible. >> thank you very much. >> it is my pleasure. >> live coverage of the confirmation hearing for supreme court nominee to sonia sotomayor our starts monday at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span, c- span radio, and on the web at c- span.org. we will replay that proceedings on weeknights on c-span2. coming this fall, tour the supreme court, on c-span. chris amar on "washington journal," a preview of the
confirmation hearings for judge sonia sotomayor work. shane harris looks at congress's role in strengthening the nation's intelligence agencies. winslow wheeler discusses this year's defense authorization bill, which the senate is scheduled to take up this week. "washington journal," live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> next, "q&a", then prime minister's questions that the british house of commons. after that, a forum on preparations concerning the h1n1 flu virus.