Sessions to oppose Obama’s Supreme Court nominee

Published 3:12 pm Monday, July 27, 2009


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Monday he’ll vote against Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, siding with his party’s leaders against the judge who’s on a fast track to becoming the first Hispanic justice.

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Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., weighed in on President Barack Obama’s first high court choice the day before his panel is scheduled to vote on her nomination. Her confirmation by the full Senate — with at least a handful of GOP votes — is virtually certain by next week.

Sessions accused Sotomayor of trying to “rebrand” her judicial approach during her confirmation hearings. He said he didn’t believe she has the “deep-rooted convictions necessary to resist the siren call of judicial activism” when she joins the nation’s highest court.

He cited her rulings on property and gun rights, as well as a much-discussed rejection of a reverse discrimination claim by white firefighters, as examples of decisions that violated the Constitution and reflected “liberal political thought.”

Most conservative Republicans are lining up against Sotomayor, but a handful of GOP senators are siding with majority Democrats to back her.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., also announced Monday he would vote against Sotomayor, saying he was concerned she wouldn’t be able to set aside her biases and rule impartially. In a statement released by his office, Johanns said he was particularly troubled about Sotomayor’s stance on gun rights.

Sessions announced his decision in an opinion piece published in Monday’s editions of USA Today.

From USA Today

A confirmation conversion

By: Jeff Sessions

Elections have consequences: President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, will likely be confirmed.

But supporters of liberal judicial philosophy might find it a Pyrrhic victory. During three days of careful questioning, Judge Sotomayor renounced the pillars of activist thinking.

She rejected the president’s “empathy standard,” abandoned her statements that a judge’s “opinions, sympathies and prejudices” may guide decision-making, dismissed remarks that personal experiences should “affect the facts that judges choose to see,” brushed aside her repeated “wise Latina” comment as “a rhetorical flourish,” and championed judicial restraint.

Judge Sotomayor’s attempt to rebrand her previously stated judicial approach was, as one editorial page opined, “uncomfortably close to disingenuous.”

Why not defend the philosophy she had articulated so carefully over the years?

Because the American people overwhelmingly reject the notion that unelected judges should set policy or allow their social, moral, or political views to influence the outcome of cases. Rather, the public wants and expects restrained courts, tethered to the Constitution, and judges who impartially apply the law to the facts.

In the end, her testimony served as a repudiation of judicial activism.

But pledging “fidelity to the law” and practicing judicial restraint are different things. Which Sotomayor will we get?

At the hearings, which were praised for their substance and respectful tone, we looked closely at the record:

— Her 2006 private property decision permitted the government to take property from one developer and give it to another.

— Her 2008 Ricci decision allowed a city to discriminate against one group of firefighters because of their race. That ruling was recently reversed by the Supreme Court.

— Her 2009 Second Amendment decision would give states the power to ban firearms.

These rulings have three things in common. Each was contrary to the Constitution. Each was decided in a brief opinion, short on analysis. And each was consistent with liberal political thought.

I don’t believe that Judge Sotomayor has the deep-rooted convictions necessary to resist the siren call of judicial activism. She has evoked its mantra too often. As someone who cares deeply about our great heritage of law, I must withhold my consent.