THE BIG QUESTION, May 27: Sonia Sotomayor and the Senate

The Big Question is a feature where influential lawmakers, pundits and interest group leaders give their answers to a question that’s driving discussion in news circles around the country.

Some responses are gathered via e-mail, while others are gathered in person via tape recorder.

Today’s Big Question is:
Will Sonia Sotomayor face serious opposition? Should she?

See responses below from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Roger Pilon, Ilya Shapiro, William Redpath, and Tom McClusky.

Read the last Big Question here.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said:
I am extremely pleased by President Obama’s selection to replace Justice Souter on the U.S Supreme Court with Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Judge Sotomayor has consistently demonstrated a commitment to the Constitutional values on which this nation was founded, repeatedly showing an ability not only to understand the technicalities of the law, but also to understand how the law affects our lives practically.

Judge Sotomayor’s career serving in nearly every aspect of the law offers her a depth of experience and broad range of perspectives that will prove to be invaluable on our nation’s highest court. READ THE FULL RESPONSE HERE.

Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow, Center for Constitutional Studies at The Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief, Cato Supreme Court Review, said:
The issue of whether the Republicans will filibuster or otherwise muster strong opposition is beside the point. The job of the minority Senate Judiciary Committee members is to educate the public about the implications of different theories of constitutional interpretation—and probe whether Sonia Sotomayor’s theories would pervert the Constitution. The public is already with them—the “judges” issue is one of the few that has garnered consistent and solid support for the Republican position—but senators have to move beyond buzzwords to show what “legislating from the bench” actually means.

To do this, they should take a page from Solicitor General Elena Kagan, herself a potential nominee. In a 1995 article, Kagan argued that our “confirmation mess” can be blamed on a lack of debate over substantive law. Senators spend their time talking about minor non-scandals—recall Joe Biden quizzing then-Judge Sam Alito about an obscure Princeton alumni club. Nominees, meanwhile, dodge questions on the tendentious theory that the issue could come before the Court—but what legal issue can’t? READ THE FULL RESPONSE HERE.

Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President of FRC Action, said:
I hear all over the place that Ms. Sotomayor has a “compelling story” that makes her more in tune with her feelings. With all due respect to the popular daytime television queen, a judge needs to be more like John Roberts and not Oprah Winfrey.

That is why this process can not be rushed and why the role of the Senate Judiciary Committee is so important in properly vetting any nominee to ensure that the nominee has the requisite competence, temperament, character, knowledge of the law, and experience to make a good jurist. The nominee must be committed to making decisions based on the law and the facts of each case. They must also set aside personal ideological predispositions toward certain results and have the ability to faithfully uphold the Constitution recognizing that it is the supreme law and source of authority for all American law, including judicial precedents. READ THE FULL RESPONSE HERE.

Roger Pilon, Vice President of Legal Affairs at the Cato Institute, said:
President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court will pose difficulties for Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judge Sotomayor’s personal story is deeply compelling, and she is the first Latino nominee to the High Court. Republicans need to reach out to that important voting block. But they also need to reestablish their identity, which has been rooted, from the time of Lincoln, not in the “identity politics” that has so dominated the Democrats’ agenda but in the fundamental idea that every American is to be treated as an individual, nowhere more clearly captured than in our national motto, E Pluribus Unum—from many, one. READ THE FULL RESPONSE HERE.

William Redpath, Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, said:
Even though being a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States is a dead end job, it’s still a mighty important position. Anyone nominated should face serious and comprehensive questioning. But, Sonia Sotomayor should face much more than usual. It is hard to argue her selection based solely on merit, and she has made many controversial statements and rulings. Indeed, President Obama has set her up for this with his own comments about what he wants in a Supreme Court justice. Ultimately, I think those who want a Supreme Court justice to be empathetic with the Constitution and the Rule of Law will and should oppose her nomination.

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