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Sotomayor. Ron Edmonds/AP

By Mark Memmott

It's question day for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor as her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee resumes. If confirmed, she would be the first Latino on the court and only the third woman. She is the first person nominated by a Democratic president since then-president Bill Clinton chose Justice Stephen Breyer in August 1994.

We'll keep an eye and an ear on the proceedings. We'll be updating this post, so be sure to hit your "refresh" button to see our latest additions. And if there's major news, we'll break it out in a separate headline.

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET. On NPR News this hour, Carl Kasell introduced this report about today's hearing from NPR's Ari Shapiro:

Update at 11 a.m. ET. On abortion:

This just merited an "alert" from the Associated Press -- "Sonia Sotomayor calls abortion rights under Roe vs. Wade 'settled law'. "

Update at 10:19 a.m. ET. More on biases:

Continuing her discussion with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Sotomayor says:

"I do not permit my sympathies, personal views or prejudices to influence the outcomes of my cases."

Then why has she said "my experiences affect the facts I choose to see?" Sessions asks.

"I do believe life experiences are important to the process of judging," Sotomayor answers. "But the law requires a result and will (lead) you to the facts that are relevant."

Update at 10:11 a.m. ET. Biases and prejudices:

Responding to the committee's top Republican, Sotomayor tells Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama that a judge's prejudices should never influence the outcome of a cases.

Judges should recognize their prejudices and biases, she adds.

"What I try to do is insure that they're not," Sotomayor says of her own beliefs and their affect on her decision-making. "If I ignore them ... then I could unconsciously or otherwise, be led to do the exact thing I don't want to."

Update at 10:06 a.m. ET. First Republican response:

As he begins his question time, the committee's top Republican says he likes what he's heard her say about making decisions based on facts and the law.

"Had you been saying that with clarity" in past years, says Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, "we'd have a lot fewer problems."

He's concerned, Sessions says, that she will let her personal beliefs and experiences guide her decision-making. That, he adds, "goes against the American ideal and oath that a judge takes."

Update at 9:55 a.m. ET. On the "wise Latina" comments:

Leahy gives Sotomayor a chance to explain her now infamous remarks about a "wise Latina" woman being able to come to better decisions in some cases than a white man.

Sotomayor says she was trying, when she said that to young people on different occasions, "to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system."

"I want to state upfront ... and without doubt," she continues, (that) I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging."

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. New Haven firefighters case:

Leahy gets right to one of the key decisions in Sotomayor's career that Republicans will want to explore -- the so-called New Haven firefighters case, in which she and two other appeals judges ruled the city of New Haven could toss out results of a firefighters' promotion test that minorities scored poorly on.

The Supreme Court reversed the decision made by Sotomayor and her colleagues.

The appeals court concluded, she says, that the city's decision was "lawful under established law." The Supreme Court, says Sotomayor, announced it was going to apply a different law.

Asked by Leahy if she had been applying precedent, Sotomayor says, "absolutely." And if the appeals court was deciding the case now, it would be bound by the new precedent established by the High Court, she agrees.

Update at 9:40 a.m. ET. "Facts" is a key word in the early going:

In her second answer, Sotomayor speaks at length about an issue Republicans are sure to come back to as they try to make the case that she might let her personal biases affect her decisions.

"The law is not legal theory, it's facts," she says. "Then it's taking those facts and making arguments on the law as it exists."

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. First question -- a softball:

"What are the qualities that a judge should possess?" asks Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

"The process of judging is a process of keeping an open mind," Sotomayor says. "Reaching a conclusion has to start with understanding what the parties are arguing." Then, she says, a judge must examine the facts, the record and make a decision "that is limited to what the law says on the facts before the judge."

There are, of course, many ways to follow the confirmation hearing. NPR.org, courtesy of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, is streaming the proceedings. Click here to follow the hearing. So are the Judiciary Committee itself, C-SPAN and just about every other major news media outlet with a website.

Ken Rudin over at Political Junkie is posting about the politics of the nomination debate. NPR.org's complete coverage is collected here.

Both Morning Edition and All Things Considered will be on top of the story as well, and NPR is broadcasting a one-hour recap of the day's events on most member stations each evening as the hearing continues. Talk of the Nation is focusing on the hearing as well. Click here to find an NPR station near you.

categories: National News

9:29 - July 14, 2009