Sotomayor Confirmation No Done Deal, GOP Warns; Sen. Sessions to Probe the Judge's Philosophy

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom LoBianco, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican cautioned Friday that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation is not a foregone conclusion amid what he said was growing concern on both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, who will lead the committee's Republicans in questioning Judge Sotomayor at confirmation hearings that begin Monday, told The Washington Times that her new-age judicial philosophy - unless she recants - threatens to disqualify her for the bench.

He pointed to a 2001 speech in which the judge said she hoped a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life. The White House says she regrets the statement.

But it could be disqualifying, Mr. Sessions said in an interview Friday in his Capitol Hill office. He said he needed to hear her explanation for the remark before deciding how to cast his vote.

I strongly believe today that too many judges are allowing their personal views to affect their decisions, Mr. Sessions said. I wouldn't want to put another one on the Supreme Court if that's what she means by these words.

The Alabama Republican stressed that her ascent to the top court is not a done deal, and several Democrats have expressed reservations with her stance on the Second Amendment, potentially shattering the chances Democrats could use their supermajority to ram through her confirmation.

They're not a guaranteed vote for the nominee, Mr. Sessions said.

A number of gun rights groups have opposed Judge Sotomayor's nomination, though the National Rifle Association - whose support has been critical for so-called red- and purple-state Democrats - has not come out against the nominee.

Judge Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic to sit on the nation's high court, also must calm Republican fears that her judicial philosophy, as several of her speeches seemed to suggest, favors ruling with sympathy and empathy rather than from a dispassionate legal perspective.

Mr. Sessions recited from a 2001 speech Judge Sotomayor delivered in Berkeley Calif.: Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. .. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

She has run into trouble for other statements she has made highlighting her Puerto Rican heritage and how gender and ethnicity influence jurists.

Conservative pundits and activists have pounced on Judge Sotomayor's statements - including her assertion that a wise Latina woman would make better decisions than a white male who hasn't lived that life. …