Sotomayor Sparks Debate On A Judge's Proper Role : The Two-Way Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing begins.
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Sotomayor Sparks Debate On A Judge's Proper Role

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Sotomayor Sparks Debate On A Judge's Proper Role

Sotomayor Sparks Debate On A Judge's Proper Role

Sotomayor, who recently broke her ankle, leaves during a break in the hearing. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Federal appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Democratic President Barack Obama's first nominee to the Supreme Court, is in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If confirmed, she would be the first Latino on the court and only the third woman justice.

Just after 10 a.m. ET, she introduced some of her family to the committee. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said each of the committee's 19 members has 10 minutes to make an opening statement.

We're going to use this post to follow some of the opening statements. Be sure to click your "refresh" button to see our latest updates.

Update at 3:05 p.m. ET: The committee has adjourned for the day. The hearing will resume at 9:30 a.m. ET tomorrow.

Update at 2:45 p.m. ET: Getting ahead of himself, Leahy says he will administer the "oath of office" to Sotomayor before she gives her statement later this afternoon. He quickly corrects himself, to say he'll have her swear to tell the truth.

Update at 2:32 p.m. ET. The Senate's newest member, Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota, is making his first statement.

The one-time comedian and Saturday Night Live writer is spending much of his time thanking the other members and pledging to work with those from parties.

Update at 2:30 p.m. ET. The nominee's nephews, Conner (second from left) and Corey, dozed off this morning (and almost surely weren't the only folks in the room to do so):

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Update at 1:15 p.m. ET. So far, the hearing has focused on the proper role of a judge, says NPR's Ari Shapiro (his report is introduced by NPR's Craig Windham):

Sotomayor Sparks Debate On A Judge's Proper Role

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Update at 12:38 p.m. ET: The committee just adjourned for lunch. Sometime around mid-afternoon, it's expected that Sotomayor will have her chance to speak. We'll put up a new post when that happens.

Update at 12:34 p.m. ET: If you'd like to read the senators' opening statements, as prepared for delivery, the committee is posting them here.

Update at 12:32 p.m. ET: Another outburst in the hearing room from someone in the audience. Once again, Leahy has ordered the man removed.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Update at 12:26 p.m. ET. A note on body language:

Sotomayor's face has betrayed little so far. She has kept a fixed expression and for the most part has looked directly at whichever senator is speaking, her hands resting on the table in front of her.

Update at 12:21 p.m. ET. A Republican comeback:

"I thought this was your hearing, not Justice Roberts' hearing," says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., responding to comments from some Democratic senators about what they see as Chief Justice John Roberts' conservative bias.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. The Democratic response, Part II:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., lays out one of the arguments Democrats will likely make throughout the hearing — that recent Republican-appointed justices (John Roberts and Samuel Alito) have not been impartial "umpires."

Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. The committee is taking a break. In the meantime, here is the news "spot" filed by NPR's Ari Shapiro for the 11:30 a.m. ET newscast. You'll hear some of the remarks made by the top Republican on the panel, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama:

Sotomayor Sparks Debate On A Judge's Proper Role

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Update at 11:31 a.m. ET. A hint from Graham that he will vote to confirm?

"My inclination is that elections matter and I'm not going to be upset with any of my colleagues who find that you're a bridge too far," says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "But President Obama won the election and I will respect that."

Earlier, Graham said that "we lost, and President Obama won, and that ought to matter."

Graham during today's hearing. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

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Update at 11:27 a.m. ET. Graham says he expects she'll be confirmed:

One of the committee's toughest questioners and most experienced lawyers, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, tells Sotomayor that

"Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed — and I don't think you will (melt down)."

He is most troubled, Graham tells Sotomayor, by her speeches. Her now-famous comment about a "wise Latina" woman perhaps being able to make better decisions than a white man, would have ended his career if he'd said it, Graham says.

Update at 11:18 a.m. ET. The Democratic response:

"Just Sotomayor puts rule of law above everything else," says Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as he lays out the Democratic response to Republican claims that Sotomayor will let her "biases" influence her decisions.

"Any objective review of Judge Sotomayor's record," Schumer argues, shows she has "judged balls and strikes" objectively — while Chief Justice John Roberts, who promised to be an impartial umpire — has tried to "change the rules."

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET. Another Republican is critical of "empathy" in deciding cases:

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., picks up the GOP line of attack on a judge with "empathy," as President Obama has said he prefers. Everyone should have empathy, he says, but it's a problem if it becomes "the critical ingredient to deciding cases."

Republicans, he says, must be confident she is "absolutely committed" to setting aide "her biases" when deciding cases.

Update at 10:47 a.m. ET: There's some shouting in the room from a protester. Leahy quickly bangs the gavel, orders the man removed and says that outbursts won't be tolerated. (12:10 p.m. ET: Getty Images says it was a "pro-life" protester.)

Here's what it sounded like. The first voice is Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who was speaking when the man started shouting. The last voice is Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.:

Sotomayor Sparks Debate On A Judge's Proper Role

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Update at 10:42 a.m. ET: As he finishes his opening statement — and after making several observations about why he believes there are many questions that she needs to address — Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah says to Sotomayor:

"Judge, I'm proud of you and I wish you well. This will be an interesting experience."

Update at 10:37 a.m. ET: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has previously chaired the committee, uses some of Obama's votes as a senator in making the case that Sotomayor's nomination deserves scrutiny.

He notes that Sotomayor's supporters note she has voted with her GOP colleagues at the appeals level 95% of the time in the cases they have heard. But Obama, Hatch says, voted against the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito even though Alito had voted with his Democratic colleagues on the appeals level 99% of the time.

Update at 10:22 a.m. ET: It didn't take long for the top Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, to bring up the so-called New Haven firefighters case, in which Sotomayor and other appeals court judges ruled that city could toss out a promotions test for firefighters because minorities scored poorly on it.

"Judge Sotomayor's empathy for one group of firefighters turned out to be prejudice against another," Sessions says.

He also zeroes in on her past involvement with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, saying it "aggressively pursued racial quotas."

Update at 10:18 a.m. ET: The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, says he expects a "respectful tone" at the hearing. He then turns to the kinds of things he thinks "activist" judges have done to corrupt the legal system — and is critical of Obama's use of the "empathy standard" in selecting judges.

Sotomayor is holding a fixed expression as she watches him speak.

Sessions says he will not vote to confirm anyone who is not "fully committed to fairness and impartiality."

Empathy, he says, is "more akin to politics and politics has no place in the courtroom."

Update at 10:10 a.m. ET: Laying the groundwork for the Democrats' push to ensure Sotomayor's confirmation, Leahy calls her a "careful and restrained judge with a deep respect for judicial precedent."

He says opponents should not be allowed to distort her positions.

There are, of course, many ways to monitor the news., 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.

We're following the news — live-blogging as warranted — and Ken Rudin over at Political Junkie is posting about the politics of the nomination debate.'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. Click here to find an NPR station near you.