U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today regarding Judge Sotomayor's written responses to questions regarding the use of foreign law in American courts.
"While I admire Judge Sotomayor's achievements, I'm troubled that she has reversed herself on the subject of using foreign law in court decisions and deliberations. Judge Sotomayor is now embracing the same attitude toward foreign law she articulated previously but rejected during her public hearings," Dr. Coburn said.
Before she was nominated Judge Sotomayor said: "I share more the ideas of Justice Ginsburg in thinking, in believing that unless American courts are more open to discussing the ideas raised by foreign cases, and by international cases, that we are going to lose influence in the world. Justice Ginsburg has explained very recently . . . that foreign opinions . . . can add to the story of knowledge relevant to the solution of a question, and she's right."
During the hearing Judge Sotomayor said:
"I will not use foreign law to interpret the Constitution or American statutes. I will use American law, constitutional law to interpret those laws, except in the situations where American law directs a court."
After the hearing Judge Sotomayor said:
"In limited circumstances, decisions of foreign courts can be a source of ideas informing our understanding of our own constitutional rights."
"To the extent that American courts categorically refuse to consider the ideas expressed in the decisions of foreign courts, it may be that foreign courts will be less likely to look to American law as a source of ideas."
"A Supreme Court justice has no authority to make judgments based on international law, much less world opinion. I have serious concerns with any judge who, in the back of her mind, is worried about offending the international community while making a decision about a case in the United States," Dr. Coburn said.
"Judge Sotomayor's written responses confirm many Americans' worst fears that she views the U.S. Constitution, which is the basis of our rule of law, as an insufficient basis for deciding cases and would instead allow the broader arena of international commentary to influence her decisions," Dr. Coburn said.