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Cochran’s Official Statement On Why He Will Oppose Sotomayor

July 22, 2009
tags: Sonia Sotomayor, Thad Cochran
by Brett

Press release:

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today outlined the reasons why he cannot support the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, chief among them his concern about the nominee’s “fidelity to equal justice.”

In his speech to the Senate, Cochran discussed an evolving standard for evaluating judicial nominees, as well as his support for Sotomayor’s elevation to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.

Mississippi’s senior Senator, however, said Sotomayor’s statements since joining the federal bench, her responses during her recent Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings and the seriousness of a berth on the U.S. Supreme Court led him to oppose her confirmation.

“It is the responsibility of the Senate to make certain that those who are confirmed to the Supreme Court not only are fully qualified by reason of experience and training, but will show a commitment to equal justice under the law,” Cochran said.

“Some of Judge Sotomayor’s statements during the last decade have given me reason to question her fidelity to equal justice. And unlike the Federal Circuit Court where she has served since 1998, a Justice on the Supreme Court is not bound by existing legal precedent. If confirmed, there would be no higher court to deter Judge Sotomayor from making decisions that would become the binding law of the land,” he said. “For these reasons, I intend to oppose her nomination.”

The text of his speech from the Senate floor is below the fold.

Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the nomination of Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. I want to begin by thanking Senators Leahy and Sessions for their handling of her recent Judiciary Committee hearing. I believe that her hearing was both informative and respectful. Both Judge Sotomayor and the judicial confirmation process were treated with the dignity they deserve.

The Senate’s Constitutional role to “advise and consent” on federal judicial nominations is one that all Senators take very seriously. I, like most Senators, have traditionally shown significant deference to the President’s prerogative in selecting capable nominees for the federal judiciary. If a nominee was qualified by education, experience, and judicial temperament, then that nominee would be confirmed, no matter the political party of the President.

Recent years have seen that standard dramatically altered. During the Administration of President George W. Bush, several qualified nominees, including Charles Pickering, Michael Wallace, and Leslie Southwick from my home state of Mississippi, saw their nominations opposed based on their perceived ideology. For better or worse, a new standard for evaluating judicial nominees has emerged.

As has been well documented during her confirmation process, Judge Sotomayor was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by the Senate on October 2, 1998. I voted in favor of Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation. However, a nomination to one of the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals is not the same as a nomination to the court of last resort, the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court.

During her recent hearing, Judge Sotomayor was asked several questions regarding statements that she had made in recent years. In writings and speeches, Judge Sotomayor repeatedly stated that a judge’s personal experiences can and will impact judicial outcomes. She has also argued that judges should allow their personal sympathies and prejudices to influence their decision-making.

She describes the ideal of judicial impartiality as an ‘aspiration’ that, she believes, cannot be met in most cases. These statements raise serious concerns regarding her lack of commitment to the notion of equal justice under the law. Judge Sotomayor’s responses to questions about these comments have failed to alleviate my concerns about whether she would apply the law in an evenhanded manner.

It is the responsibility of the Senate to make certain that those who are confirmed to the Supreme Court not only are fully qualified by reason of experience and training, but will show a commitment to equal justice under the law. Some of Judge Sotomayor’s statements during the last decade have given me reason to question her fidelity to equal justice. And unlike the Federal Circuit Court where she has served since 1998, a Justice on the Supreme Court is not bound by existing legal precedent. If confirmed, there would be no higher court to deter Judge Sotomayor from making decisions that would become the binding law of the land.

For these reasons, I intend to oppose her nomination.


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