The Sonia Sotomayor confirmations hearings are in their fourth day on Capitol Hill, with the Supreme Court nominee continuing to be grilled by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here are some of the highlights so far:
Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D) Vermont: "You said that, quote, you would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would reach wise decisions. ... So tell us, you've heard all of these charges and countercharges, the wise Latina and on and on. Here's your chance. You tell us - you tell us what's going on here, Judge."
Sotomayor: "I gave a variant of my speech to a variety of different groups, most often to groups of women lawyers or to groups, most particularly, of young Latino lawyers and students. As my speech made clear in one of the quotes that you reference, I was trying to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system, because different life experiences and backgrounds always do... I was also trying to inspire them to believe that they could become anything they wanted to become, just as I had."
Sen. Jeff Sessions, (R) Alabama: "I think it's consistent in the comments I've quoted to you and your previous statements that you do believe that your backgrounds will accept - affect the result in cases, and that's troubling me. So that is not impartiality. Don't you think that is not consistent with your statement, that you believe your role as a judge is to serve the larger interest of impartial justice?"
Sotomayor: "No, sir. As I've indicated, my record shows that at no point or time have I ever permitted my personal views or sympathies to influence an outcome of a case. In every case where I have identified a sympathy, I have articulated it and explained to the litigant why the law requires a different result. ... I do not permit my sympathies, personal views, or prejudices to influence the outcome of my cases."
Sen. Herb Kohl, (D) Wisconsin: "In your opinion, is Roe (v. Wade) settled law?"
Sotomayor: "The court's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed the court holding of Roe. That is the precedent of the court and settled, in terms of the holding of the court."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R) Utah: "If a holding in the Supreme Court means it is settled, do you believe that - that Gonzales v. Carhart, upholding the partial-birth abortion ban, is settled law?"
Sotomayor: "All precedents of the Supreme Court I consider settled law."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R) South Carolina: "Lawyers anonymously rate judges in terms of temperament. And here's what they said about you. 'She's a terror on the bench. She's temperamental, excitable, she seems angry. She's overall aggressive, not very judicial. She does not have a very good temperament. She abuses lawyers. She really lacks judicial temperament.' ... When you look at the evaluation of the judges on the Second Circuit, you stand out like a sore thumb in terms of your temperament. What is your answer to these criticisms?"
Sotomayor: "I do ask tough questions at oral arguments."
Graham: "Are you the only one that asks tough questions in oral arguments?"
Sotomayor: "No, sir. No, not at all. I can only explain what I'm doing which is when I ask lawyers tough questions, it's to give them an opportunity to explain their positions on both sides and to persuade me that they're right."
Sen. Ben Cardin, (D)-Maryland: "I do want to first start with the judicial temperament issue and the reference to the almanac on the federal judiciary. I just really want to quote from other statements that were included in that almanac where they were commenting about you and saying that 'she is very good. She is bright. She's a good judge. She is very smart. She is frighteningly smart. She is intellectually tough. She is very intelligent. She has a very good, commonsense approach to the law. She looks at the practical issues. She is good.'"
Sotomayor: "I think that most lawyers who participate in arguments before me know how engaged I become in their arguments in trying to understand them. And as I indicated yesterday, that can appear tough to some people, because active engagement can sometimes feel that way. But my style is to engage as much as I can so I can ensure myself that I understand what a party is intending to tell me."
Sen. Tom Coburn, (R) Oklahoma: "You've been asked a lot of questions about abortion. And you've said that Roe v. Wade is settled law. Where are we today? What is the settled law in America about abortion?"
Sotomayor: "I can speak to what the court has set in its precedent. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court reaffirmed the core holding of Roe v. Wade that a woman has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy in certain circumstances. In Casey, the court announced that, in reviewing state regulations that may apply to that right that the court considers whether that regulation has an undue burden on the woman's constitutional right. That is my understanding of what the state of the law is."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D) Minnesota: "Do you want to talk about any - maybe a specific example of that in your own career as a prosecutor or what goes into your thinking on charging?"
Sotomayor: "I was influenced so greatly by a television show in igniting the passion that I had as being a prosecutor, and it was 'Perry Mason.' ... That TV character said something that motivated my choices in life and something that holds true ... defense attorneys serve a noble role, as well. All participants in this process do: judges, juries, prosecutors and defense attorneys. We are all implementing the protections of the Constitution."
Sen. Al Franken, (D) Minnesota: "''It amazes me that you wanted to become a prosecutor based on the show, because in 'Perry Mason' the prosecutor on that show lost every week except for one episode. What was the one case in Perry Mason that (the prosecutor) won?"
Sotomayor: "I wish I could remember the name of the episode but I don't. I was just always struck that there was only one case where his client was actually guilty."