Lynn v. Sekulow

Lynn v. Sekulow

Did We Learn Anything From the Sotomayor Hearings?

When all is said and done, Jay, I’m not sure either one of us learned what we wanted to from the hearings. Many issues were discussed ad nauseum; others virtually untouched.  (The Washington Post did any excellent analysis of this in its print edition on Sunday).  I was impressed by Judge Sotomayor’s demeanor, even when she was being asked endless variations of questions she had pretty much disposed of in her brief initial statement.  When you and I give speeches or have debates at colleges or on television, we use a kind of language which is more direct, more ideological, and more “human” than what we might write in a judicial opinion in the unlikely event that either one of us ever becomes a judge on anything but a reality show.  This difference is not one of substance, but of style– which is all that remarks like “a wise Latina woman” ever were.


There were obvious “set up” questions by Democratic Senators–or at least questions which they must have known Judge Sotomayor’s White House advisers had prepped her to answer.  There were also obvious efforts by Republican Senators to trip her up using carefully prepared queries from ideological staffers and, I’ll bet, some outside interest groups as well.  This is pretty much what Supreme Court hearings have become.  It does not change much whether the candidate is a choice of a President Bush or a President Obama.

Some, like columnist Steve Chapman, have suggested that nominees shouldn’t even be called to appear
before such hearings, but that would seem to make the constitutional
mandate to give “advise and consent” by the Senate even more difficult
to achieve.  However, I see what such critics are getting at: that the
process of information gathering at the hearings is so stilted and the
comments of outside groups so predictable that the highlights of the
events seem to be tangents. Samuel Alito’s wife leaving the hearing
room in tears or the interchange between Senator Jeff Sessions and my
former colleague Wade Henderson about cocaine become more memorable
than the incessant repetitive questions and answers by the Senators.

There ought to be a better way to do this.  I will again plug my friend Christopher Eisgruber’s excellent new book The Next Justice; its a good start. 

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posted July 19, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Another point in the selection of a jurist may be whether you want a judge to rule by the law or make the law.
Quote; “And her statement as a panel member at Duke University Law School in 2005 that “the court of appeals is where policy is made” raises questions as well. That statement has been viewed repeatedly on YouTube, along with her explanation that while “the facts control” at the district court level, the appeals court judge must rule with an eye toward history and how a ruling in a particular case might affect “a broad class of cases” and “the next step in the development of the law.”
Indeed, Sotomayor provoked much laughter and was herself grinning broadly when she assured the audience that “We [judges] don’t make law. I know. I know.” That laughter, as well as the judge’s ideas about “the development of the law” may require some explanation before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

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posted July 20, 2009 at 9:12 am

I was impressed by Judge Sotomayor’s demeanor, even when she was being asked endless variations of questions she had pretty much disposed of in her brief initial statement.
One thing we learned from this endless variation you cite is the obvious prevalence of racism in this country.
The references to Miguel Estrada and his failure to secure his appointment to the federal bench demonstrates some senators’ focus solely on his Hispanic credentials. There were others who sought the same types of appointment who were not Hispanic and were also turned down.
Even the reference to “you’d have some ‘splainin’ to do” shows that some senators almost unconsciously focused on race. Although Desi Arnaz was Cuban and Sonia Sotomayor is Puerto Rican, two entirely separate cultures and backgrounds, that fact did not make it to the senators’ level of awareness. Only the Hispanic label made it.
Another thing we learned is the desire of some senators to bloviate about nothing when the TV cameras are on them.
That they had no possible legitimate concerns about Sonia Sotomayor’s candidacy was revealed to anyone with good sense. There are many issues they could have asked her about, even if their questions might have been “just for the record,” but they perseverated on just one.
If anything, they succeeded in over-reassuring any of their constituents who might have had any concerns about her objectivity that Sonia Sotomayor will be a fair and objective Justice. But they were playing to the cameras. Once having been personally reassured of her objectivity, and having no further concerns, they should have passed. They wasted hours of our time and the time of their fellow senators… several of whom actually did prepare decent questions to ask.
Hopefully, the voters of their states will have learned something important and significant about their senators. I understand that the audience for these hearings was down from that of hearings in the past, though, so I am not holding out too much hope. Sad!

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posted July 20, 2009 at 9:18 am

We learned that senators will run for re-election even during Supreme Court nominee hearings.
We learned that senators will take up valuable time reading press released disguised as thoughts just so they can be entered into the Congressional Record even when such meanderings bear no resemblance to the matters at hand or the politicians record.
We learned that the Republicans still don’t understand why Hispanics, woman and other minorities just don’t like much less trust them.
We learned that Jeff Sessions can’t speak off the cuff.

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posted July 21, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I think the process was boring and unproductive. We still dont know how she feel about abortion. I think we will all be surprised once she comes out with her views on abortion. She will line up with republician and personally against abortions. Watch out now!!!!

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N. Lindzee Lindholm

posted July 23, 2009 at 1:16 am

Rev. Barry: I appreciate the fact that you support having a hearing for Senate confirmation even though there is some debate as to the usefulness of such an event. Since Supreme Court Justices have such an essential part in the judicial process, as Mr. Jordan Sekulow states, candidates should not be given a “free pass”. I agree with Dr. Jay that it is crucial that the tough questions be asked because even though Judge Sotomayor had advisers prepping her, I’ll bet as to the exact phraseology as to how to answer the questions to the “jot and tittle”, the importance of hearing Sotomayor’s answers about judicial philosophy cannot be underscored enough to give the public an idea of her judicial reasoning, even though some of her words were contrary to actual judicial philosophy used as an appellate court judge.

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