Judge Sotomayor’s Questionnaire - A New Modern Record
Judge Sotomayor has delivered detailed and substantive answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questions, which are available on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website. The answers demonstrate how Judge Sotomayor’s three decade career and her significant contributions to the law and her community provide her with unique and unprecedented qualifications to be the next Supreme Court Justice.
In an effort to advance her nomination through the Senate as swiftly as possible, Judge Sotomayor has completed her questionnaire faster than any Supreme Court nominee in recent history – in just 9 days. For historical context, it took Chief Justice Roberts 13 days, Justice Ginsburg 15 days and Justice Alito 30 days from the time they were designated to the time they completed their questionnaires. With her record of 17 years on the bench, this historically fast completion of the exhaustive questions is no small feat that will hopefully lead to her swift consideration by the Senate and enable her to be a member of the Supreme Court by the time they begin selecting cases in September.
The best guide in determining the type of Supreme Court Justice that Judge Sotomayor would make is her judicial record. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a record of judicial excellence, frequently grappling with a broad range of legal issues and demonstrating a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine. On the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country, she has participated in over 3,000 panel decisions and authored more than 230 majority opinions. She has handled difficult issues of constitutional law, complex procedural matters, high-profile criminal cases, and lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. At every turn, she has upheld the rule of law, and demonstrated herself to be an impartial, non-ideological jurist. She takes each case as it comes, narrowly applying the law to the particular facts of the case.
Judge Sotomayor also served for six years as a trial judge on the federal district court and as a big city prosecutor for five years. She would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years.
As the U.S. Senate weighs her confirmation, it is important that she be judged by her extraordinary record.
But to examine as much information about Judge Sotomayor as possible, we encourage you to take a look at the more than 60 speeches and writings that can be found on the Judiciary Committee website.
Since her college days, Judge Sotomayor has been an active speaker and prolific writer on some of the greatest issues of our time, including the roles of race and gender in our society and in our courts. She is also a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was an adjunct professor at New York University Law School until 2007.
Throughout her work, Judge Sonia Sotomayor consistently demonstrates not only her brilliance in the law but also a commonsense understanding of how the law works. Her distinguished record includes a body of legal essays that show a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine and a keen awareness of the law’s impact on the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.
The writings and remarks you will find on the Senate Judiciary Committee website include:
Impartiality in Judging: Judge Sotomayor said "It is very important when you judge to recognize that you have to stay impartial. That’s what the nature of my job is. I have to unhook myself from my emotional responses and try to stay within my unemotional, objective persona." [Latinos in Law: Wonderful Life, 2000]
Role of Diversity and Ethnicity: Judge Sotomayor said, "[D]iversity and ethnicity shapes who we are and the contributions we make to the world but they don’t and shouldn’t define our humanness or limit the giving to the larger community of people we share this planet with... On September 11, fire-men and women, police-men and women, and other heroes gave their lives without taking note of the colors of the faces they were trying to save. Countless people stood on blood giving and food lines, hundreds if not thousands of people volunteered their time and donated resources to the rescue effort and none asked about the race, color or religion of the people they were helping." [Unity Day at the FBI, 5/1/02]
Diversity on the Courts: Judge Sotomayor has written and spoken frequently about how life, including gender and race, can impact how judges understand cases. Similar to remarks by Justice Ginsberg, Justice Alito and other Supreme Court justices and nominees, Judge Sotomayor believes that life experience can inform the process of judging. Judge Sotomayor said "First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion. What is better? I, like Professor Resnik, hope that better will mean a more compassionate, and caring conclusion." [March 17, 1994, Conference on Law Reviews] [Note: This speech was included in Judge Sotomayor’s 1997 Judiciary Committee questionnaire for her nomination to the 2nd Circuit.]
Citizenship: Judge Sotomayor said, "But with freedom and liberty and opportunity comes responsibility. As citizens we all share the responsibility of working together within our democratic system of government -- to strengthen it – to ensure that the promise of America and its freedoms shall endure for us and for all generations to come. You are now citizens. Remember to make your voices heard. It is your right and your obligation to vote because voting is your fundamental way of expressing your views. Remember, however, that voting is not enough. Write your elected officials and express your views. Volunteer your time and talents to civic or social activities and become an active part of our community. When called for jury service, come and serve. This is one of the most central and important obligations of citizenship." [Naturalization Proceedings, August 27, 1993]
On Checks and Balances: Judge Sotomayor said, "Few political events bring to the general public’s attention and fascination the dynamic dichotomy and interplay of our system of separation of powers than does the confirmation process. A supreme court confirmation is a historical snapshot moment that exposes to the public the delicate balance and checks that our constitution creates in the relationship among the branches of government." [Federalist Society Panel, February 28, 2009]
In the text of the speeches Sotomayor delivered from Buffalo to Brooklyn and from Princeton to Yale, you will get to know an inspiring woman with an incredible legal mind who will make a great Supreme Court Justice.
Commitment to Service: Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her community, and serves as a role model for young people from all walks of life. In addition to speaking at local high schools and community events, Judge Sotomayor is active in the Development School for Youth program, which sponsors workshops for inner city high school students. Every semester, approximately 70 students attend 16 weekly workshops that are designed to teach them how to function in a work setting. The workshop leaders include investment bankers, corporate executives and Judge Sotomayor, who conducts a mock trial workshop in which the students play various roles, including the parts of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the defendant and witnesses, and in the process they get to experience openings, closings, direct and cross-examinations.
Through this questionnaire, and throughout Judge Sotomayor’s record, it’s clear to all how Judge Sotomayor earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist. She’s inspired so many others – through her words and her deeds – to work hard and reach for their own dreams, and to give back to our country.
Greg Craig is White House Counsel.