Sen. Whitehouse’s Remarks on Sotomayor Vote

On the Web: Read the Release, Watch the Video

Thank you, Chairman, and thank you for your wise and fair leadership of these confirmation proceedings.  I also thank the ranking member for his fairness and courtesy throughout the proceedings.  I will be proud to vote in support of Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation to the United States Supreme Court.

I appreciate, as I know the Chairman and others do, her background as a prosecutor, and I believe her non-controversial seventeen-year record as a federal judge makes clear that she is dedicated to the rule of law, has a proper judicial temperament, and gives every party before her a fair hearing.

I also believe the unequivocal pledge that Judge Sotomayor gave me: that she will respect the role of Congress as representatives of the American people; that she will decide cases based on the law and the facts; that she will not prejudge any case, but listen to every party that comes before her; and that she will respect precedent and limit herself to the issues that the Court must decide; in short, that she will use the broad discretion of a Supreme Court Justice wisely.  She promised that and I take her at her word.

Mr. Chairman I think we are witness here to an effort to define justice in America in alignment with a particular point of view.  My colleagues are entitled to their point of view.  They are entitled to their view about guns, they are entitled to their point of view about property rights, they are entitled to their point of view about other issues.  What I resist is any effort to define that point of view as a judicial norm against which any other point of view is to be seen as an aberration, as “biases and prejudices,” to use one quotation.  In this case, I further believe that their definition of justice in America – their definition – is just plain wrong both as history and as justice.  In particular I do not wish to force, as the new judicial norm, the sort of judges who, to paraphrase a recent article on the Supreme Court “in every major case vote for the corporation against the individual, for the government against the criminal defendant, and for the executive branch against the legislature.”  I do not wish judges without empathy, who will ignore the long and proud history of the courtroom, as the last stand for many beleaguered Americans where they can get fearless justice even when all of the forces of politics, of proper opinion, and of corporate power may be arrayed against them – with judges willing to provide that fearless justice, even if it completely upsets the status quo.

I would add that I find no fault in judges who won’t, as the price of entry to the court, commit to expanding our newly minted individual right to own guns, a right that no Supreme Court for 220 years had previously noticed and that was created in a 5-4 decision by a divided court.

So I will with pride support Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.  It is an honor to serve on this committee and to vote for such a talented and exceptional person.  We all realize that Judge Sotomayor will be an historic justice, but I think we can all expect that most important she will be an excellent justice.

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