US President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary committee on Tuesday, all but ensuring she will become the first Hispanic justice on the court.
The panel voted 13 to 6 to confirm Sotomayor even though several committee members complained the approval process prevented her from stating her true views on controversial issues.
Amid concerns of conservatives that Sotomayor might be a “judicial activist,” just one Republican joined all 12 Democrats to confirm the 55-year-old who has been a federal judge for 17 years.
The Democratic-controlled full Senate seems certain to give Sotomayor its final approval before beginning a month-long recess on Aug. 7 so she can join the nine-member court before it begins a special September session.
She is not expected to change the court’s ideological balance, replacing retiring Justice David Souter as one of four liberals who face five conservatives led by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Sotomayor is Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee. With three of the other eight justices in their 70s and John Paul Stevens at 89, Obama might have a chance to make more of the lifetime appointments.
“Judge Sotomayor is well qualified. She has the highest rating by the American Bar Association,” said committee chairman Patrick Leahy. “She has administered justice without favoring one group of persons over another.”
Six of the committee’s Republicans disagreed, saying they feared her rulings might be biased. They focused on some of her speeches in which she appeared to say that ethnicity and gender could play a role in judicial decisions.
“In speech after speech, year after year, Judge Sotomayor set forth a fully formed ... judicial philosophy that conflicts with the great American tradition of blind justice and fidelity to the law as written,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, the senior Republican on the committee.
Several senators questioned the value of the hearing process, since judicial nominees often deflect questions about divisive issues like abortion, gun rights and gay marriage.
Sotomayor was cautious about controversial topics, saying it was not appropriate as they might come before her on the Supreme Court.
Conservatives had voiced fears that Sotomayor — the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who was raised in the Bronx borough of New York and educated at Princeton and Yale — was a “judicial activist” eager to imprint the court with Obama’s liberal agenda.
But in her four days of testimony, Sotomayor calmly parried Republican attempts to depict her as too biased.
Senator Lindsey Graham was the only Republican to vote for Sotomayor and he urged Republicans to look at her qualifications — not just that she was chosen by a Democratic president.
“She’s of good character ... She was extremely well qualified,” said Graham, adding that Sotomayor was “left of center, but certainly in the mainstream.”
“She can be no worse than Souter,” he said.
Souter was nominated by former president George H.W. Bush, a Republican, in 1990, but proved to be far more liberal than expected.
“There is not going to be a major shift in the balance of power here,” Graham said.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference