Possible Obama Court Pick: Judges Make Policy; Called 'Centrist' by ABC
New video has surfaced of possible Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor remarking that the courts are the place "where policy is made." Sotomayor, who is a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was giving a speech at Duke University in 2005 when the footage was shot. She quickly added, "And I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don't make law. I know." As the audience laughed, the judge, who is rumored to be a replacement for retiring justice David Souter, qualified, "I'm not promoting it and I'm not advocating it." More snickering from the crowd followed.
This is the same person that ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos touted on last Friday's "Good Morning America." The "This Week" host spun, "She would be not only a woman, but the first Hispanic on the court. She's built up a strong centrist record on the court." Noting that Sotomayor was nominated by President George H.W. Bush (who, it should be pointed out, also picked the liberal Souter), Stephanopoulos asserted, "So, she has got some bipartisan credentials."
The 2005 video of Sotomayor appeared on Monday night's "Hannity" and has been given a surprising amount of play on MSNBC on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see, should Sotomayor be picked by President Obama, if other journalists and networks highlight the clip. Certainly, many reports have referred to Sotomayor as a centrist, but this tape should prompt more investigation.
A transcript of Sotomayor's 2005 comments:
SONIA SOTOMAYOR (Speaking at Duke University): All of the legal defense funds out there, um, they're looking for people with court of appeals experience. Because it is- Court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know- And I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don't make law. I know. [Laughter from the crowd.] Okay. I know. I'm not promoting it and I'm not advocating it. [More laughter.] I'm, you know- Okay. [Sotomayor laughs.]
A transcript of the May 1 GMA segment, which aired at 7:04am, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: And now, for the bottom line, we turn to chief Washington correspondent and host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos. Thanks for being in here.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning.
ROBERTS: President Obama in his press conference was talking about how his plate is already full. You add this to it now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome to the White House. Every President gets this, usually pretty early in the term. And we're going to see President Obama have to deal with it pretty quickly. The White House don't want to get ahead of Justice Souter, who has not made a formal announcement yet. But, they have been thinking about this already. You would expect them to have someone in place before the court's next term begins in October.
ROBERTS: We heard in Jan's piece, it's widely expected that the selection will be a woman. Any top contenders you have been thinking about?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Almost certain that it's going to be a woman. President Obama has said he wants to add another woman to the court. Justice Ginsburg is the only woman right now. I would say the leading candidate, if there is one, is Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She's on the federal appeals court, Second U.S. Court of Appeals. She would be not only a woman, but the first Hispanic on the court. She's built up a strong centrist record on the court. She also has a great story. Worked her way up from the housing projects in the South Bronx, through Princeton and Yale. And she was first appointed to the bench by the first President Bush. So, she has got some bipartisan credentials.
ROBERTS: And people like that. The bipartisan-
STEPHANOPOULOS: Easier to confirm.
ROBERTS: And other names you can think of?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some other possibilities, Elena Kagan. She's been President Obama's choice for solicitor general, his top lawyer before the Supreme Court. Also, the former dean of Harvard Law School. Judge Diane Wood, another appeals courts judge, out of Chicago. Has a record as a brilliant jurist there. And one possible long shot, Leah Ward Sears. She's the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, also the first African-American woman to be a top judge in the state of Georgia.
ROBERTS: As we know, over the years, sometimes this nomination has tripped up a few presidents. So, is this another test for the Obama administration?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It definitely is a test for the Obama administration, for the President. It will reveal a lot about his feelings, his ideology, where he wants to take the court, where he wants to take the country. You can expect them to do this in their normal, disciplined, buttoned-down way. Greg Craig, the White House counsel, will likely take the lead. But also expect Vice President Joe Biden to play a heavy role in this process. Because, remember, he used to be the head of the Judiciary Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee. He actually presided over the confirmation hearings of six different Supreme Court justices. So, he'll play a heavy role, as well. And, you know, I would expect the President to be deliberate about this. But as I said earlier, he's not going to want to get ahead of Justice Souter. They're going to want him to have his day to make his decision.
ROBERTS: Because, of course, he want to wait until the summer, until after the session is over.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then, it will be a very crowded agenda.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Look at what else the President wants to do this summer. He wants to get health care through. He wants to get energy through. He could face the possibility of having to come back and do more on the economy, either with a second stimulus or more money for the financial institutions. So, it is a backed schedule. And that's before you can get to foreign policy.