By Alexander Bolton - 07/13/09 03:37 PM EDT
It was the first time Sotomayor spoke at length in public since President Obama tapped her for the high court in May.
Responding to those questions, and echoing the pledges of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito when they appeared before the Judiciary Committee, Sotomayor declared: “The task of a judge is not to make the law — it is to apply the law.”
After Republicans questioned her judicial philosophy, Sotomayor explained to the committee her process of rendering judgment.
“I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then by explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected,” she said. “That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system.”
Sotomayor recalled her hard work as a student at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, N.Y., while her mother, Celina Sotomayor, dabbed tears with a white handkerchief in the row of seats behind her.
“She set the example, studying alongside my brother and me at our kitchen table so that she could become a registered nurse,” Sotomayor said in reference to her mother. “We worked hard ... Our achievements are due to the values that we learned as children, and they have continued to guide my life’s endeavors.”
In recent days Republicans have pointed to Sotomayor’s past association with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund to argue that Sotomayor remains a political activist at heart.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, raised that association again Monday.
“Could it be that her time as a leader of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund provides a clue as to her decision against the firefighters?” Sessions asked, referring to a decision Sotomayor rendered against white firefighters from New Haven, Conn., who, along with one Hispanic firefighter, filed a lawsuit alleging racial bias after the city threw out a promotion exam that no African-American passed.