|Pay supreme attention to Sotomayor hearings|
|Written by Oregon Daily Emerald, U. Oregon UWIRE|
|Thursday, 13 August 2009 12:37|
When Judge Sonia Sotomayor sits with her broken leg propped up on a table and faces the Senate Judiciary Committee for most of this week, much of the nation will be enthralled by a highly choreographed fight with an almost certain outcome.
She will eventually be the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, and the third woman to ever sit on the high court. But just because judicial confirmation hearings are faker than professional wrestling that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paying attention.
The partisan game taking place (one branch of our government honestly scrutinizing a nominee of another branch before she gets a lifetime appointment to the third) will demonstrate the progress of minorities in our society.
Sotomayor should be well-prepared. She spent the past week in training being grilled by White House lawyers who have done this sort of thing before. The strategy of a nominee, they say, is to play defense. The senators should be doing two-thirds of the talking.
After senators grandstand on topics that can later be turned into helpful fundraising sound bytes - judicial temperament, abortion, guns and affirmative action for Republicans, financial regulation, abortion and executive power for Democrats - Sotomayor will respond by saying very little.
The catch-all response for every successful nominee in the past 20 years has been to punt on questions that can come before the court while exhibiting enough knowledge of the topic as to appear worthy to sit on the court.
Her record shows she tilts to the right in criminal cases, and she has never issued an opinion on abortion rights.
That has some Democrats and abortion rights groups nervous. Senators who are friendly to Sotomayor may spend more time than her skeptics talking about abortion.
Sotomayor was part of a three-judge panel that upheld a verdict in favor of the minority firefighters. Coincidentally, she also once worked for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and was chair of its litigation committee when the group sued New York City because Hispanic sanitation workers performed poorly on promotions exams.
Now Republicans will say Obama’s calls for empathy, plus Sotomayor’s remarks in a commencement speech that a “wise Latina woman” could come to a better decision than a white man because of her experiences, equal a trend of racial favoritism.
It’s a risky narrative to push in 2009. How far they take it will show how far they think the nation has moved from the need for affirmative action just after electing its first black president.
Despite how rehearsed, theatrical or predetermined the hearings may be, if you don’t stay informed, you risk getting lost in the fray down the road, when discussion of and rulings on pressing issues actually mean something.