Sotomayor shows strength in Senate hearings

I think Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, summed up best how the Senate hearings would go for Sonia Sotomayor.

"Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed," he said.

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Sonia Sotomayor

Judging from her brief introductory speech, it's clear she won't melt. She was clear, strong and determined as she briefly told her story.

Her parents moved from Puerto Rico to New York during World War II. Her father died when she as 9 years old and her mother raised Sotomayor and her brother on her own.

"She taught us the key to success in America is a good education," Sotomayor said.

She went on to graduate first in her high school class and then go on to Princeton for her bachelor's degree and then Yale Law school. She started out working as a district attorney in New York.

When she spoke about that job during the Senate hearing Monday her voice cracked with dare I say - empathy - a word the Republicans are trying to make taboo since President Obama said he wanted that quality in a Supreme Court judge.

"There, I saw children exploited and abused. I felt the suffering of victims' families torn apart by a loved one's needless death," Sotomayor said. "And I learned the tough job law enforcement has protecting the public safety."

She then detailed her work as a corporate litigator, a trial judge and an appellate judge serving on the bench for a combined 17 years. She was nominated by President Herbert Walker Bush to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and later by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

She has served 17 years combined in both jobs and would bring more federal judicial experience to the court than anyone nominated in the last 100 years. She started to slowly set the foundation for her argument that she will uphold the U.S. Constitution.
"In the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make the law - it is to apply the law," Sotomayor said.

She further explained. "I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected. That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our judicial system."

She noted that since being nominated she has received letters from people all over the country.

"It is our Constitution that makes that Dream possible, and I now seek the honor of upholding the Constitution as a Justice on the Supreme Court," Sotomayor said.

She presented herself as intelligent with judicial integrity and compassion. The sweetest moment was personal when early in the speech when she thanked her mother.

"I am here today because of her aspirations and sacrifices for both my brother Juan and me. Mom, I love that we are sharing this together," Sotomayor said.

The cameras turned to her elderly mother and it looked as though she was tearing up. You could see the pride beaming from her mother sure to gain some sympathy points from the public and some senators.

But Sotomayor did not yet address the specifics of her critics and the comment about a "wise Latina woman."

She did hint at the answer. "My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case," she said.

By the end, Sotomayor took control of the hearing and did not show any weakness or fear.  A woman who has come this far, a woman who is living the American Dream as several senators pointed out, made it clear in her brief remarks that she is going to fight for this confirmation.

No meltdown in sight.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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