Sessions threatens delay over missing speeches

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has warned Democrats that he may demand a delay of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing because of missing records he says are important.

Sessions told The Hill that the committee is missing 50 or more speeches, and that he has voiced his concerns to Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

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“I told him that I don’t see how we should go forward with the hearing if we’re missing important records and documents,” Sessions said.

Sotomayor has received some of her harshest criticism because of controversial statements she made in past speeches.

Most famously, in 2001 she told an audience at the University of California at Berkeley that “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences … would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

She has made similar suggestions in other speeches given between 1994 and 2003.

Senate Republicans have demanded that she explain her comments and some conservative leaders have accused her of “reverse” racism.  

A White House aide noted that Sotomayor responded to Republican concerns over missing records in a letter she submitted to the Judiciary panel earlier this week.
 
“I have given many speeches in my career, some without prepared written materials,” Sotomayor wrote. “Many of my speeches are intended to educate students, lawyers, and laypeople on the fundamentals of our judicial system and the tools of legal advocacy that I have learned as a lawyer and a judge. 
 
“These are speeches on general topics, and the most accurate descriptions I can provide of their content are in general terms.”

Leahy has scheduled Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing to begin the week of July 13.

“We lack quite a number of documents,” said Sessions, who said Republicans want to see documents from Sotomayor’s stint as a member of the Puerto Rican Legal Education and Defense Fund.

Republicans believe those documents are important because they may shed light on the question of whether she has let her ethnicity influence her legal thinking.

Republicans also want to see records from her career in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, internal court memoranda from her career on the bench and a missing video of one of her speeches.  

Sessions emphasized that he is not asking for a delay yet. But he may if the documents are not turned over.

Sessions said Democrats and White House officials should be able to meet the request if they roll up their sleeves and focus on it.

This story was updated 12:11.