Could we have even a slightly competent and slightly honest opposition party, please? With Senator Charles Grassley joining Jeff Sessions as head clown...
Think Progress: Grassley Admits That ‘Empathy Standard’ He Finds ‘Troubling’ In Sotomayor Didn’t Apply To Alito: During the opening day of confirmation hearings, Judge Sonia Sotomayor came under fire from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) for stating that her experiences as a Latina affects her judicial outlook. “This empathy standard is troubling to me,” Grassley said. “The Constitution requires that judges be free from personal politics … feelings and preferences.” But Grassley never objected when Judge Samuel Alito said virtually the same thing during his confirmation hearing, when Alito testified he “can’t help but think of” his immigrant family when evaluating immigration cases:
When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background, or because of religion or because of gender, and I do take that in to account.
Then yesterday, Grassley admitted to applying a double standard to Sotomayor during an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel. Siegel reminded Grassley that during Alito’s confirmation hearing, the judge said his background plays a role in his judicial philosophy — and Alito still managed to secure Grassley’s support:
NPR: By your standard that would be disqualifying. He should have said instead my family, my background counts for nothing.
GRASSLEY: That’s absolutely right. […]
NPR: But you didn’t vote against Justice Alito’s confirmation.
GRASSLEY: No I didn’t.
Think Progress: Sen. Jeff Sessions Slams Sotomayor For Not Voting Like Other Puerto Ricans: This morning, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) castigated Sotomayor for not ruling with her fellow Puerto Rican colleague, conservative Judge José A. Cabranes, when she decided to deny an en banc appeal in Ricci v. DeStefano, a process in which all judges of a court hear a case (as opposed to a three-judge panel of them). Sessions seemed to indicate that people of the same ancestry should vote the same way:
SESSIONS: You voted not to reconsider the prior case. You voted to stay with the decision of the circuit. And in fact your vote was the key vote. Had you voted with Judge Cabranes, himself of Puerto Rican ancestry, had you voted with him, you could’ve changed that case....
Sessions slammed Sotomayor as being “unsuitable for the bench” due to her past affiliation with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). Apparently, Sessions didn’t realize that Judge Cabranes also served on PRLDEF’s board.
Sessions, a former prosecutor and attorney general in his home state, was nominated to serve as a federal judge by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Maybe he’s just bitter that he was denied a seat on the federal bench by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 9-9 vote which deemed him “grossly insensitive” on racial issues. During his own hearings, Sessions admitted to “frequently joking in an off-color sort of way.” Looks like not much has changed....
UPDATE: During his questioning, Sessions said he wished Sotomayor acted more like Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who “believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices.” “My friend Judge Cedarbaum is here,” Sotomayor responded, to Sessions’ apparent surprise. For her part, Cedarbaum told the WSJ, “I don’t believe for a minute that there are any differences in our approach to judging, and her personal predilections have no effect on her approach to judging.”
Matthew Yglesias: Revisiting the Judges of Yore With Republican Senators: Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was disparaging Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remarks and contrasted them with the words of Judge Miriam Cedarbaum who “believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices.” Sessions said “So I would just say to you, I believe in Judge Cedarbaum’s formulation.” Sotomayor herself said that she agrees with Cedarbaum and that Sessions is misinterpreting her. She also brought Judge Cedarbaum to the hearing. Leading to this great item by Jess Bravin:
“I don’t believe for a minute that there are any differences in our approach to judging, and her personal predilections have no affect on her approach to judging,” she told Washington Wire. “We’d both like to see more women on the courts,” she added.
But then Jeff Bravin jumps the shark. He writes:
In 1986, Cedarbaum and Sessions were both nominated to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan, and were members of the same orientation class for future judges. Their paths then diverged, however. Cedarbaum was confirmed, but Sessions’s nomination floundered over a controversy surrounding comments he made involving the Ku Klux Klan and the NAACP...
As Matthew Yglesias points out:
The comments [Sessions] made, to be clear, were about how the KKK, a violent white supremacist terrorist organization, was fine except for the fact that some of its members smoked pot. The NAACP, by contrast, was said to be a bad and Communistic organization...
You wouldn't know that from reading Bravin, would you? That's a losing game for Bravin: Republicans will now be slightly less pissed off at him, but the rest of us will always wonder how much we can trust him.
And Matthew sends us to Kate Klonick, who "notes the right’s strange habit of invoking Judge Richard Paez as a contrast to Sotomayor’s purported racism. It’s strange because Sessions and Richard Kyl, both of whom praised Paez to disparage Sotomayor, voted against Paez when they had the chance."
Kate Klonick - Devil’s Advocate: GOP: Let’s hold Sotomayor to the standard of a judge we voted against - True/Slant: So much for the idea that elephants never forget. Speaking to nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remarks, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) quoted at length from another Latino justice — Judge Richard Paez of the Ninth Circuit. “‘Recognize that you might have some bias, or prejudice,’” Kyl said in quoting Paez’s oft-cited instructions to juries on how to disregard their bias. “Recognize that it exists, and determine whether you can control it so that you can judge the case fairly. Because if you cannot—if you cannot set aside those prejudices, biases and passions—then you should not sit on the case.’”
Ranking minority member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) also held up Paez as the epitome of judicial impartiality in an impromptu press conference during a break this morning. The use of Paez is not a new meme for Republicans, but it certainly is a very strange ideal to hold Sotomayor to — especially since both Sessions and Kyl voted against Paez’s confirmation. Perhaps more amazing, Paez was no run of the mill nomination and confirmation. His nomination famously lasted a record 1,506 days when the confirmation was repeatedly delayed by Republicans who held the majority in Congress and cited his supposed “judicial activism.”