Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GOP concerned about Sotomayor after first day of questioning

Byron York's piece in the Examiner today takes a look at the fact that Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee believe they're being lied to by Sonia Sotomayor. And if she's not lying, she sure as Hell isn't being entirely truthful:

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are convinced that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has not been candid with them in under-oath testimony about her speeches and legal activism. But given the assurance that majority Democrats will vote to confirm Sotomayor no matter what, the GOP effort against her is largely an attempt to convince other Republicans that Sotomayor has not earned a vote for confirmation.

Republican aides worked through the night, Tuesday into Wednesday, studying the 108-page transcript from Tuesday's hearing. They believe Sotomayor told a variety of stories, none of them entirely truthful, to explain her series of infamous "wise Latina" speeches. And they question her efforts to distance herself from the work of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, on whose board she served for twelve years in the 1980s and early 1990s.

For example, in response to questioning from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sotomayor denied involvement in PRLDEF litigation which argued that the denial of taxpayer-funded abortions amounted to a form of slavery. One brief, in 1980, compared the withholding of taxpayer abortion funding to the Dred Scott decision, and another, in 1992, argued that for poor women, especially blacks, denying taxpayer-funded abortion violated "the right to privacy in matters of body and reproduction -- a right that was trammeled with state sanction during centuries of slavery."

Sotomayor testified that she "never reviewed" and "wasn't aware of what was said" in the abortion briefs. Yet Sotomayor served on PRLDEF's litigation committee at the time, and a
report last May in the New York Times, citing several former board members, said that, among the PRLDEF board, Sotomayor "stood out, frequently meeting with the legal staff to review the status of cases." The paper reported that for Sotomayor's entire 12 years on the board, "she played an active role as the defense fund staked out aggressive stances on issues like police brutality, the death penalty and voting rights."

On capital punishment, in 1981 Sotomayor signed a PRLDEF memo opposing the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York State, arguing that "capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society." On Tuesday, when Graham asked whether she had "challenge[d] the death penalty as being inappropriate punishment, because of the effect it has on race," Sotomayor answered that she had "never litigated a death penalty case personally."

"Did you ever sign a memorandum saying that?" Graham asked.

"I signed the memorandum for the board to take under consideration, what position on behalf of the Latino community the fund should take on New York State reinstating the death penalty in the state," Sotomayor answered. "It's hard to remember, because so much time has passed."

On the issue of Sotomayor's infamous 2001 "wise Latina" speech, Republicans are more skeptical now than before Sotomayor began her attempts to explain the remarks. In response to questions from Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the committee, Sotomayor said that the "wise Latina" remark was "a rhetorical flourish that fell flat...It was bad, because it left the impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that's clearly not what I do as a judge."

Republicans pointed out that Sotomayor gave versions of the "wise Latina" speech at least six times over the years. "Fell flat?" asked one senior GOP aide. "Well, it fell flat six times. If you said this one time, and it fell flat and you stopped using it, that would be one thing, but when you've said it repeatedly over a ten-year stretch, it's very hard to believe that it is anything other than what it appears to be. It's only fallen flat now that she's been called on it.

Democrats on the committee have not offered an extensive defense of the "wise Latina" remark, in part because they appear reluctant to acknowledge that Sotomayor actually said it. Early in Tuesday's session, committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy substantially misquoted Sotomayor's speech when he said to her, "You said that, quote, you 'would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would reach wise decisions…'" In fact, Sotomayor said that, "I would hope 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." [Emphasis added.] If Sotomayor had said only what Leahy attributed to her, it is doubtful there would ever have been any controversy.

It's clear that she's not being entirely honest about her past, especially her past when serving on a certain board or two. But this isn't the only thing that's lodged in her past that should be examined. There is the matter of "Sotomayor & Associates" that the NY Times picked up on, and Patterico's guest blogger DRJ noted. That is an ethics problem because there was no one but her doling out legal advice. The excuse offered by the White House? "She needed a name, and it's not a big deal she used 'and Associates.'" To the White House, she didn't break a law (which she didn't), and it wasn't unethical (yes it was unethical because she represented herself as a firm with multiple lawyers.) In fact, DRJ points out this:

Apparently this story was
first noticed by Eric Turkewitz, a NY attorney and blogger, and he followed up with a post that suggests why the White House response focused on advisory vs mandatory actions: Because there is a 1973 New York ethics advisory opinion that says it’s misleading for a lawyer to use “& Associates” in a business name unless s/he has 2 or more associates.

It's still misleading, and the White House's excuse doesn't wash. I may have a good deal of knowledge when it comes to the law, but I'm no lawyer, nor do I ever represent myself as being one. (That could get me in serious trouble.) But where is the trouble for her? Paul Caron took note of another Sotomayor story by the Times on the same day. Mr. Caron and Glenn Reynolds wonder if "Sotomayor & Associates" might have been some sort of tax dodge. It's not like it's uncommon in Barry's administration, to be honest.

Will she be placed on the high court? Yes, she will. Hell, the Democrats have the votes to get her out of committee and out of the Senate. The Republicans don't have to vote for her at all, and based on yesterday's Q & A with her, it's pretty clear that the few, if any, Republicans will vote for her.

Publius II


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