Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and thus a central figure in the upcoming confirmation process for President Obama's new Supreme Court nominee, said this morning that Sonia Sotomayor will get a "fair and thorough" examination from the committee.
Obama's goal of seating a new justice before the start of the next term is a reasonable one, Sessions said, though he cautioned that the Senate confirmation process is the only chance to review Sotomayor before a potential lifetime appointment to the court.
Primarily, Sessions wants to examine Sotomayor's views on the role of judges, he said in the statement: "Of primary importance, we must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one's own personal preferences or political views."
Sotomayor's 2005 comment that appeals courts are "where policy is made" has been fodder this morning for conservatives who claim that Sotomayor is a judicial activist who vews judges as policymakers.
See Sessions's full statement below:
The president's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court today is an important step in a constitutional process that includes the advice and consent of the Senate. I congratulate Ms. Sotomayor on her nomination.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's role is to act on behalf of the American people to carefully scrutinize Ms. Sotomayor's qualifications, experience, and record. We will engage in a fair and thorough examination of Ms. Sotomayor's previous judicial opinions, speeches, and academic writings to determine if she has demonstrated the characteristics that great judges share: integrity, impartiality, legal expertise, and a deep and unwavering respect for the rule of law.
Of primary importance, we must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one's own personal preferences or political views.
President Obama has stated his desire to have a full court seated at the start of its next term, a reasonable goal toward which the Judiciary Committee should responsibly and diligently move. But we must remember that a Supreme Court justice sits for a lifetime appointment, and the Senate hearing is the only opportunity for the American people to engage in the nomination process. Adequate preparation will take time. I will insist that, consistent with recent confirmation processes, every senator be accorded the opportunity to prepare, ask questions, and receive full and complete answers.
I look forward to the coming months as we move forward with this process. As I told the president this morning, I will do all I can to ensure that Ms. Sotomayor receives a fair hearing before the Committee. I firmly believe that the American people deserve a full and thoughtful debate about the proper role of a judge in the American legal system, an issue that will be central to our review of Ms. Sotomayor's record.