By Sam Youngman - 06/29/09 04:29 PM EDT
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs all but accused the current court of "judicial activism," a buzz term used by conservatives in recent years, in overturning what the White House saw as Sotomayor's upholding of precedent.
Republicans on Monday sought to use the case to question Sotomayor's qualifications and buy more time before her confirmation hearings are set to begin on July 13.
But Gibbs said that the case "denotes that [Sotomayor] is a follower of precedent," and the arguments over judicial activism "seem to be at the very least upside-down in this case."
Gibbs said the case proves "she doesn't legislate from the bench."
"I think it is an interesting new interpretation of a law that has been reviewed by many judges in many courts, judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans."
Gibbs noted that Associate Justice Samuel Alito had three cases overturned by the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice John Roberts had a case overturned while he was serving as chief justice.
Noting that Monday was retiring Justice David Souter's last day on the bench, Gibbs sought to underscore the White House's urgency in getting a new justice seated, preferably before a scheduled hearing set for Sept. 9.
The court failed to decide on whether an unflattering movie about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, then a New York senator and candidate for president, should be considered a campaign ad. The court will hear arguments on the case Sept. 9.
"We want her to be an active participant in what I think everyone believes will be an important case in the new term," Gibbs said.
Sotomayor's confirmation is preferable to a "4-to-4 decision," Gibbs said.