Jeff Sessions’ Remarks In Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing

Transcript: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Opening Statement

Monday July 13, 2009

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your leadership.

And I believe you set up some rules for the conducting of this hearing that are consistent with past hearings, and I believe will allow us to do our work together. And I’ve enjoyed working with you on this process.

I hope this will be viewed as the best hearing this committee has ever had. Why not? We should seek that.

So, I join Chairman Leahy, Judge Sotomayor, in welcoming you here today. And it marks an important milestone in your life. I know your family is proud, and rightly so, and it’s a pleasure to have them with us today.

I expect this hearing and resulting debate will be characterized by a respectful tone, a discussion of serious issues, a thoughtful dialogue and maybe some disagreements. But we worked hard to do that, to set that tone from the beginning.

I’ve been an active litigator in federal courts. I’ve tried cases as a federal prosecutor and as attorney general of Alabama. The Constitution and our great heritage of law I care deeply about. They are the foundation of our liberty and our prosperity.

And this nomination is critical for two important reasons. First, justices on the Supreme Court have great responsibility, hold enormous power and have a lifetime appointment. Just five members can declare the meaning of our Constitution, bending or changing its meaning from what the people intended.

Second, this hearing is important, because I believe our legal system is at a dangerous crossroads. Down one path is the traditional American system, so admired around the world, where judges impartially apply the law to the facts without regard to personal views. This is the compassionate system, because it’s the fair system.

In the American legal system, courts do not make law or set policy, because allowing unelected officials to make law would strike at the heart of our democracy.

Here, judges take an oath to administer justice impartially. That oath reads, “I do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and to equal right to the rich and the poor, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me under the Constitution and laws of the United States, so help me God.”

These principles give the traditional system its moral authority, which is why Americans respect and accept the ruling of courts, even when they disagree. Indeed, our legal system is based on a firm belief in an ordered universe and objective truth. The trial is a process by which the impartial and wise judge guides us to truth.

Down the other path lies a brave new world, where words have no true meaning, and judges are free to decide what facts they choose to see. In this world, a judge is free to push his or her own political or social agenda.

I reject that view, and Americans reject that view.

We have seen federal judges force their political and social agenda on the nation, dictating that the words “under God” be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance and barring students from even private, even silent prayer in schools.

Judges have dismissed the people’s right to their property, saying the government can take a person’s home for the purpose of developing a private shopping center.

Judges have, contrary to longstanding rules of war, created a right for terrorists captured on a foreign battlefield to sue the United States government in our own country.

Judges have cited foreign laws, world opinion and a United Nations resolution to determine that a state death penalty law was unconstitutional.

I’m afraid our system will only be further corrupted, I have to say, as a result of President Obama’s view that in tough cases the critical ingredient for a judge is, quote, “the depth and breadth of one’s empathy,” close quote, as well as his words, quote, “their broader vision of what America should be.”

Like the American people, I have watched this process for a number of years, and I fear that this thinking empathy standard is another step down the road to a liberal, activist, results-oriented, relativistic world, where laws lose their fixed meaning, unelected judges set policy, Americans are seen as members of separate groups rather than as simply Americans, where the constitutional limits on government power are ignored when politicians want to buy out private companies.

I feel we’ve reached a fork in the road, I think, and there are stark differences. I want to be clear. I will not vote for, and no senator should vote for, an individual nominated by any president who is not fully committed to fairness and impartiality toward every person who appears before them.

And I will not vote for, and no senator should vote for, an individual nominated by any president who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their personal background, gender, prejudices or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of or against parties before the court.

In my view such a philosophy is disqualified. Such an approach to judging means that the umpire calling the game is not neutral, but instead feels empowered to favor one team over another. Call it empathy, call it prejudice, or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it’s not law. In truth it’s more akin to politics, and politics has no place in the courtroom.

Some will respond Judge Sotomayor would never say it’s never acceptable for a judge to display prejudice in that case, but I regret to say, Judge, that some of your statements that I’ll outline seem to say that clearly. Let’s look at just a few examples. We’ve seen the video of a Duke University panel, where Judge Sotomayor says, “It’s the Court of Appeals where policy is made, and I know, I know that this is on tape, and I should never say that and should not think that.”

And during a speech 15 years ago, Judge Sotomayor said, quote, “I willingly accept the way the judge must not deny the difference resulting from experience and heritage, but attempt continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate,” close quote.

And in that same speech she said, quote, “My experiences will affect the facts I choose to seek.” Having tried a lot of cases, that particular phrase bothers me. I expect every judge to seek all the facts.

So I think it’s noteworthy that when asked about Judge Sotomayor’s now famous statement that a wise Latina would come to a better conclusion than others, President Obama, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg declined to defend the substance of those remarks.

They each assume the nominee misspoke. But I don’t think it — but the nominee did not misspeak. She is on record as making this statement at least five times over the course of a decade. I am providing a copy of the full text of those speeches for the record.

Others will say that despite these statements, we should look to a nominee’s record, which they characterize as moderate. People said the same of Justice Ginsburg, who is now considered to be one of the most activist members of the Supreme Court in history.

Some senators ignored Justice Ginsburg’s philosophy and focused on the nominee’s judicial opinions. But that is not a good test, because those cases where necessarily restrained by precedent and the threat of reversal from higher courts. On the Supreme Court, those checks on judicial power will be removed, and the judge’s philosophy will be allowed to reach full bloom.

But even as a lower court judge, our nominee has made some troubled rulings. I’m concerned by the Ricci, the New Haven firefighters case recently reversed by the Supreme Court, where she agreed with the city of New Haven’s decision to change the promotion rules in the middle of the game. Incredibly, her opinion consisted of just one substantive paragraph of analysis.

Justice Sotomayor has said she accepts that her opinions, sympathies and prejudices will affect her rulings. Could it be that her time as a leader in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a fine organization, provides a clue to her decision against the firefighters?

While the nominee was chair of that fund’s litigation committee, the organization aggressively pursued racial quotas in city hiring and in numerous cases fought to overturn the results of promotion exams. It seems to me that in Ricci, Judge Sotomayor’s empathy for one group of firefighters turned out to be prejudice against another.

That is, of course, the logical flaw in the empathy standard. Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.

Judge Sotomayor, we will inquire into how your philosophy, which allows subjectivity in the courtroom, affects your decision-making, like, for example, in abortion, where an organization of which you were an active leader argued that the Constitution requires taxpayer money to fund abortions; and gun control, where you recently noted it is settled law that the Second Amendment does not prevent a city or state from barring gun ownership; private property, where you ruled recently that the government could take property from one pharmacy developer and give it to another; capital punishment, where you personally signed a statement opposing the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York because of the inhuman psychological burden it places on the offender and the family.

So I hope the American people will follow these hearings closely. They should learn about the issues and listen to both sides of the argument and — and at the end of the hearing ask, if I must one day go to court, what kind of judge what I wish to hear my case? Do I want a judge that allows his or her social, political or religious views to change the outcome? Or do I want a judge that impartially applies the law to the facts and fairly rules on the merits without bias or prejudice?

It’s our job to determine which side of that fundamental divide the nominee stands.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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2 Responses to “Jeff Sessions’ Remarks In Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing”

  1. Nameless Cynic Says:

    Wow. Is this man just that oblivious? I mean, he talks nice, but… really?

    Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.

    This is Jeff Sessions, right? The man who prosecuted three civil rights workers (including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr.) on trumped-up charges of voter fraud? The man who said that he didn’t think the Ku Klux Klan was so bad until he found out that some of them smoked marijuana? The man who called the NAACP and the ACLU “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” because they “forced civil rights down the throats of people”?

    The same Jeff Sessions who called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race” for working on voting rights cases? The man who called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a “piece of intrusive legislation”? (I mean, to be honest, it was intrusive, in that it allowed blacks to vote – that was something that the whites in the South really didn’t appreciate.)

    Is this the same Jeff Sessions who told Thomas Figures, a black Assistant US Attorney, to “be careful what you say to white folks”?

    Is this the man who just tried to claim that he understood the definition of “prejudice”? Really?

    I mean, you can throw high-minded phrases around all you want. Isn’t the truth to be found in someone’s actions?

    Can Jeff Sessions define “irony” for me? Please?

  2. Michael Eden Says:

    I managed to dig enough to find out that all of the allegations of statements you make were from the word of one man – J. Gerald Hebert – against Sessions. Shockingly, he turns out to be a Democrat. It’s kind of funny to me that woman after woman testified against Bill Clinton alleging everything from RAPE, to sexual harassment, to groping, and they were all lying. And even after Monica Lewinsky had Clinton’s semen stains on her blue dress, she was STILL lying.

    Sessions wasn’t a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan like one of your Democrat Senators was, I hope? That would be really hateful. He didn’t drive crap-faced drunk off the road and leave a young woman trapped in the car to die terribly (leaving claw marks on the inside of the car as she tried desperately to get out) without notifying the police until after he sobered up, did he? Boy, it would be utterly hateful and beyond despicable if Jeff Sessions did something vile like that.

    Oh, I’m sorry, I’m speaking of the two most prominent Democrats in the Party. My bad.

    I sure hope he didn’t demonize innocent white boys as vicious animal rapists the way Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton demonized those innocent Duke Lacrosse players by assuming they were guilty on account of the fact that they were white. Some people would think that a “trumped up charge” of rape with heavy time in prison and a “sexual predator” thing following you around for life would be ALMOST AS BAD AS BEING ACCUSED OF VOTER FRAUD.

    I’m sure that no leftist organization has EVER participated in voter fraud. Oh, darn, there’s that pesky ACORN indicted for it damn near everywhere.

    Allow me to quote a particularly ignorant piece of rambling ignorance:

    (I mean, to be honest, it was intrusive, in that it allowed blacks to vote – that was something that the whites in the South really didn’t appreciate.)

    The Voting Rights Act was a massive piece of legislation and imposition of federal power that didn’t bequeath “the right to vote.” Sessions opposed SOME of the elements of the Voting Rights Act, not the core legislation. The actual fact is, black people have HAD the right to vote since the 15th Amendment in 1870. If you weren’t an ignorant creep, you would have known that. You also would have known that it was the Republican Party that pushed it through against hardened Democrat opposition. You’d probably also be surprised to discover that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a registered Republican. You clearly don’t realize that 82% (27 out of 33) of Republican Senators voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, versus only 68% (46 of 67) of Democrats, or that the Civil Rights Act would have failed to pass had it not been for Republicans. The same is true of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when again, Republicans supported the bill by larger majorities than Democrats (74% of Democrat Senators vs. 97% of Republican Senators voted for it).

    The National Black Republicans site gives a great many facts of history to show which was the racist party and which wasn’t.

    The Ku Klux Klan, you should know, is an organization founded by DEMOCRATS to attack blacks and Republicans. That spirit of racism continued until 1924, when the Democratic National Convention in New York merited the title “Klanbake” because of all the Klansmen who were part of it – and which the Democrats refused to condemn. The same kind of Democrats later defeated the Anti-Lynching Bill supported and put forward by Republicans.

    The Democrats were the party of hard core racism until they sustained key losses that caused them to realize they could do a 180 and cynically capitalize on the votes of the very people they had spent a century oppressing.

    The bottom line is, I don’t have to do a ton of research on Jeff Sessions to show he didn’t do any of the things you claim he did.

    All I have to do is point out that your “talking points” (one need only google a couple of charges to see that this ignoramus is spouting out a talking point) are nothing more than the rabid, vicious left dredging up of the ugliest accusations they can find to try to undermine ideas – no matter how true or how noble those ideas are.

    Sessions quotes Sotomayor from her own public statements. It is only a sick person who thinks that attacking Sessions somehow absolves her saying that a Latina woman would come to a BETTER conclusion than a white male. It is only a diseased mind that would conclude if they can portray Sessions as a racist, somehow Sotomayor is absolved of HER racism? It is only a morbidly demented person who thinks that somehow attacking Sessions means that Sotomayor DIDN’T participate in the racist denial of those white New Haven firefighters.

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