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Judicial Fairytales

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The truth is finally out as to why the Democratic leadership doesn’t think much time is needed before the hearing of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor: They don’t need to examine her record.

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In press a conference this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised Sotomayor saying she “is going to be a fantastic, superb Supreme Court justice.” Yet when asked about her record, he said, “I understand that during her career, she’s written hundreds and hundreds of opinions. I haven’t read a single one of them, and if I’m fortunate before we end this, I won’t have to read one of them.”

Of course not. Why would he need to? It was judicial love at first sight straight from the judicial fairytale books of old. He looked into her eyes, and through them he saw her spirit and what she is all about. He was amazed about what he found. She is really a conservative jurist who will show great judicial restraint and will follow the law. And right then and there, he knew she was the one.

Someone should let Sen. Reid know that fairytales make great stories but horrible marriages. You need to know someone before you marry them. And that takes time.

The people of Nevada should call the majority leader’s office and demand that he do his job. We are all aware of the many challenges the Senate is facing at the moment, but for any Senator to neglect his or her constitutionally required duties so flippantly is shameful.

What is even worse is that the Democratic leadership is not only purposely ignoring their duties, but they apparently think all Senators should do likewise and are trying to make it harder for anyone to fulfill the Senate’s “advice and consent” role in a responsible manner.

This week, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refused the reasonable request that a hearing be delayed until after the August recess. That means he won’t even allow the same amount of time demanded by the Democrats and given by Republican leadership on the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito, who had a comparable written record.

There are legitimate concerns about Judge Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy. She has said race, gender, and ethnicity “may and will make a difference in our judging.” She’s also said that she “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.”

In the now-famous Duke Law School appearance, Judge Sotomayor said the “court of appeals is where policy is made,” adding, “I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don’t make law.”

As others have pointed out, in light of those comments, there is no question her ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano deserves a closer look. That was the case where Judge Sotomayor upheld a discriminatory practice that affected firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, who were denied promotions because not enough minorities scored high enough on a racially neutral test. Ironically, the group of discriminated firefighters included one Hispanic.

She also voted to refuse rehearing that case and did not even think the case was worthy of a published opinion — very interesting considering the fact that the Supreme Court is currently considering the case and will announce its opinion at the end of June.

I know Sen. Leahy has tried to alleviate our concerns by saying that Sotomayor promised to follow the law (maybe he also looked into her eyes), but again, this is no fairytale. We must take a close look at her record because there is too much at stake. And yes, I know it is a novel concept to Sen. Reid, but that includes reading her opinions.

For the Democratic leadership to feel they are fulfilling their “advice and consent” duties by having lunch with Judge Sotomayor and then voting is one thing, but they should at least not stand in the way of those faithful Senators who have respect for the Constitution and their constituents and want to take the time to examine legitimate and well-documented concerns in the nominee’s record.

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