ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The Sotomayor confirmation hearings are done. Senate Republicans are not going to try to block or delay a vote and some are even saying that they'll vote for her. Joining us now for a look back on the week's hearing is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Welcome.
Senator JEFF SESSIONS (Republican, Alabama): Robert, nice to be with you.
SIEGEL: First, will you vote for or against the Sotomayor nomination?
Sen. SESSIONS: I'm troubled by the nomination. I have not announced what I will do. And we're continuing to review the record and the matters that came up at the hearing. But I'm really troubled by some of her speeches that I think reflect a view of the law that's not the classical American legal view that I believe in so deeply. And there are other areas in some cases that are quite important such as the Ricci case, the firefighters case and the case on the right to keep and bear arms, for example.
SIEGEL: But much of the Republican questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor dealt with those speeches - remarks off the bench, typically about her experiences, how her life experience growing up Puerto Rican or in the phrase that has now become cliché, a wise Latina, have greatly influenced her life, including her public life. What was accomplished in all that questioning about the wise Latina remark? As she said, a rhetorical flourish that fell flat in a speech that she made.
Sen. SESSIONS: Well, it was more than just a speech about her background, it was a speech that reflected a judicial philosophy, that a person's background, sympathies and prejudices, those were her words, can impact your ruling. She said her background could affect the facts she chose to see as a judge. And that's - if believed - that's a disqualifying thing, frankly. And she made other comments in speeches endorsing a more activist view of the use of foreign law.
And although she backed away from that in the hearing, and I thought that was one of the more notable things in the hearing, the values that were articulated by the witness tend to move more and more to the classical approach to law than when we started, I think.
SIEGEL: But all of that talk about life experience and what facts we choose to see, it seems to put Republicans, I understand the view of the judge that you're defending, but it's the odd position of claiming that life experience should not and does not in any way influence how we perceive things, even if we're judges, which seems to run counter to everyday experience that people are affected by their life experience.
Sen. SESSIONS: Robert, this is so basic to American law. Your justice and the result in a court should not depend on the judge's personal views, background or ethnicity. A judge takes an oath to be impartial. The oath says, you will do equal justice to the poor and rich alike. And that you put on that robe and it represents a fundamental commitment to put aside all of those things and be fair and objective in the process. And it was stunning to me. And I think most senators felt it was stunning and she retreated...
Sen. SESSIONS: ...rapidly from it. And I think that reflects a concern that they were inappropriate comments.
SIEGEL: But I understand the concern that we wouldn't like to think that the ethnicity of the judge who's hearing our case is going to determine what they'll say. But we are accustomed in appellate courts to seeing judges disagree along patterns from one case to the next and have predictable guiding political philosophies. And we don't really think they're all there by an entirely - process of pure reason. Don't we think that some of people's life experiences make them a conservative or a liberal or a strict instructionist or an activist judge?
Sen. SESSIONS: Well, you should not bring your political views into the courtroom for heaven's sake. That's fundamentally unacceptable. It is true, as you know, though, that our judges do have different judicial philosophies and those philosophies can affect how they review cases and rule on cases. And her philosophy was what we were looking at and talking to her about. If you have a philosophy that's not in the mainstream, it's not in the classical American tradition of objectivity, then I think that is cause for great concern.
I think it was a very legitimate question. But we try to do it in a fair way. We were committed to a fair hearing to allowing her to answer the questions and she says she was fairly treated when it was over. And I think we had a good national discussion about it.
SIEGEL: Senator Sessions, thanks a lot for talking with us once again.
Sen. SESSIONS: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who says he has not yet made up his mind how he'll vote on the Sotomayor nomination, although doesn't sound very positive about it.
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