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Former FBI Director Freeh To Endorse Sotomayor
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Former FBI Director Freeh To Endorse Sotomayor

Law

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The latest public support of Sonia Sotomayor is a former director of the FBI. Louis Freeh is also a former federal judge. He was appointed by a Republican president, the first President Bush. Now Freeh is expected to formally endorse President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court. Our legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg is following the maneuvering as confirmation hearings approach.

NINA TOTENBERG: The drumbeat of support and opposition is beginning to sound a bit like Ravel's "Bolero," a sort of one-sided "Bolero."

Yesterday, the American Bar Association Judicial Screening Committee gave Sotomayor its highest rating. The vote was unanimous, based on hundreds of confidential interviews with Sotomayor's colleagues on and off the bench, and a review of her opinions by scholars and practitioners.

Then the Democrats rolled out endorsements by leading law enforcement organizations, ranging from the National District Attorneys Association to the Fraternal Order of Police. Here's the FOP's Vice President Dave Hiller.

Mr. DAVE HILLER (Vice President, Fraternal Order of Police): This is the judge that any beat officer can and will support.

TOTENBERG: Republican leaders sought to offset these endorsements. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the senate floor with a critique of the New Haven firefighters race discrimination decision Sotomayor participated on the appeals court, a decision overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last month.

Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): As we consider her nomination to the Supreme Court, my colleagues should ask themselves this important question: Is she allowing her personal or political agenda to cloud her judgment in favor of one group of individuals over another, regardless of what the law says?

TOTENBERG: But Republicans are having a hard time portraying Sotomayor as a radical. Even the National Rifle Association is so far not opposing her outright.

And later this week, former FBI Director Louis Freeh is expected to formally endorse her nomination in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Freeh got to know Sotomayor when the two served at the same time as federal trial judges.

In an interview with NPR, Freeh rejected any suggestion that Sotomayor is an agenda-driven liberal judge.

Mr. LOUIS FREEH (Former FBI Director): I think if you look at her opinions, I mean, she's got a very conservative, criminal justice, law enforcement approach.

TOTENBERG: Beyond law enforcement, Freeh said, as a conservative, he's unconcerned by her record.

Mr. FREEH: I haven't read anything in her opinions that would make me think, from a conservative point of view, that there's anything quote-unquote "radical" or off the mainstream.

TOTENBERG: Freeh got to know Sotomayor when she was first on the bench and he was assigned as her mentor. He actually sat with her during a couple of trials to make sure she knew the ropes. As it turns out, he says, the help was not needed.

Mr. FREEH: What struck me was just how poised and confident and calm she was. She had great rapport with the witnesses and juries.

TOTENBERG: Some of that, he says, was because of her experience as a prosecutor and a trial lawyer. But, he adds, she was a natural. Freeh also points to the fact that if confirmed, Sotomayor would be the only justice with experience as a trial judge.

Mr. FREEH: That's going to add great depth, and, I think, perspective to the court.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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