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Public Statements

Sotomayor Nomination

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise this evening to speak on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

We all know elections have consequences. Because of this, I have tried to give deference to the various nominees submitted by President Obama. I have not voted for all of his nominees, but I have voted for some even though I did not necessarily believe they were the best people he might have nominated.

The case of a nominee to the Supreme Court is unique. This is not a Cabinet member who will rotate out or leave at the end of the President's term. Supreme Court Justices are there for life and decide cases that will affect present and future generations of Americans.

With this in mind, I have reviewed opinions written or concurred in by Judge Sotomayor, reviewed speeches and writings of Judge Sotomayor, talked with lawyers who practice in New York, lawyers who have tried or argued cases before Judge Sotomayor, and others who know her by reputation, and also listened to and reviewed testimony before the Judiciary Committee in her confirmation proceeding. In addition, I spent the better part of an hour in a one-on-one conversation with the judge. Certainly, she has all the education and judicial background to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Her judicial temperament is not in question. Some lawyers felt she was not qualified for the Supreme Court, and others felt she is.

Judge Sotomayor has a very compelling personal story, and being Hispanic and being female and being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court adds more credibility to that saga of living the American dream. As Americans, we should be proud she has been nominated. But the role of the Senate is to give the President advice and consent, and we are required to go beyond the personal side of the nominee.

After reviewing the information I have collected over and over again, I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Sotomayor's nomination. My reasoning is as follows:

First, lawyers nominated to the Supreme Court should be in a class by themselves.

My only experience as a Member of the Senate with this process is with the confirmations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. Clearly, they are lawyers who are in a premier class. Lawyers with whom I spoke who know Judge Sotomayor do not put her in that category. Even those who say she should be confirmed do so in a less than enthusiastic way.

Second, I am a strong supporter of the second amendment, and I am concerned about the reasoning of Judge Sotomayor in cases where she has considered this issue.

In DC v. Heller, the Supreme Court left unanswered the issue of application of the second amendment to the States. This issue is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court in the next year or so. As a member of the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor ruled in the negative on this issue in the Maloney case without an explanation, simply citing an old Supreme Court case that is not really directly on point and is certainly outdated. This is too important an issue to give it no more than a cursory review.

Third, I am concerned about the apparent leaning of Judge Sotomayor to use foreign law to interpret U.S. laws and our Constitution.

In her April 28, 2009, speech to the Puerto Rican ACLU, Judge Sotomayor said that while foreign law should not be used as a precedent, she stated it should be ``considered.'' My question is, Why? Judge Sotomayor's answer in that same speech to that question was to align herself with Justice Ginsburg, who supports the use of foreign law and recently stated that ``foreign opinions ..... can add to the story of knowledge relevant to the solution of a question.'' Judge Sotomayor went on to say that unless American courts are more open to ideas in foreign cases, ``we are going to lose influence in the world.'' From an American jurisprudence standpoint, that line of thinking is certainly scary to me.

Lastly, the highly publicized Ricci case is very puzzling. A per curium opinion is unusual for such a complex and precedent-setting case. No analysis for the decision is very troubling to the lawyer in me.

In my conversation with Judge Sotomayor, she stated that the Second Circuit panel was simply following precedent and if the Supreme Court reversed the Second Circuit opinion, it would be establishing a new precedent. The Supreme Court, of course, did reverse the Second Circuit and clearly stated that no precedent was being followed by the lower court.

Judge Sotomayor did not adequately explain what precedent she was talking about and, in fact, did not answer this question when directly asked the question by Senator Kyl at her confirmation hearing. Being less than forthcoming in every respect is very disturbing.

Mr. President, for all of the above reasons, I will cast a ``no'' vote on the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor next week.

With that, I yield the floor.


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