Thursday wrapped Senate questioning in the Sotomayor hearings and brought the much-anticipated testimony of New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci.
Sen. Kyl began the morning’s questions, dwelling heavily on the Ricci case and refusing to accept the diplomatic non-answers that Sotomayor has been so carefully counseled to give. Kyl called the bluff on her claim that she was bound by Supreme Court precedent in the case, demonstrating that cases did not exist on which to base such precedent. When she skirted the question and recited the facts of the case instead, he took a page from her “tough judge” playbook: “that’s all fine and dandy, counsel, but answer the question.”
Much later in the day, the testimony of Ricci himself was less forceful, but moving nonetheless, as he recounted the hours of study he spent away from his family for the exam that Sotomayor’s court tossed out, and reminded the Senate that “the very reason we have civil service rules is to root out politics, discrimination and nepotism.” Yet he and fellow firefighter Ben Vargas were less adamant about the judicial merit (or lack thereof) in the ruling under cross-examination, and the drama that some were expecting from the event failed to materialize.
Other notable moments: Sen. Lindsey Graham, while frankly declaring some of Sotomayor’s statements troubling, seemed to warm up to her today, complimenting her on her judicial record and leading some to speculate that she may have won his confirmation vote.
Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life delivered a moving plea on behalf of the unborn, citing Sotomayor’s association with PRLDEF, which opposes even parental notification restrictions on abortion, and challenging Sotomayor’s statement from Monday that all cases decided by the Supreme Court become “settled law.” Roe v. Wade, Yoest said, represents “precedent on shaky ground.”
The testimony of Cato’s Ilya Somin described with clarity Sotomayor’s failure to follow judicial precedent in rulings on property rights and incorporation of the 2nd Amendment.
And sometimes, what is not said is just as significant as what is. One issue that has not come up during the hearing cycle is Sotomayor’s membership in the women-only private club Belizean Grove. Last month, TAS’ Jeffrey Lord wrote about how membership in a similar men’s club had become a dealbreaker for Sen. Pat Leahy and others in the confirmation of Bush Third Circuit Court nominee D. Brooks Smith. Leahy’s silence on the issue during this cycle of hearings speaks loudly.
Transcripts from yesterday’s hearings and those of the past three days are thoughtfully compiled here on the LATimes Web site.