Video: Sessions attacks “empathy” standard

posted at 2:20 pm on July 13, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Politico pronounces itself somewhat surprised to see Republicans going on the attack against Sonia Sotomayor in the opening round of her confirmation hearing. If so, they must not have acquainted themselves with Jeff Sessions, who got Borked before Robert Bork by this very committee as a judge before becoming a Senator. Sessions promised tough questioning, and he showed his hand in his opening statement as ranking member:

Senate Republicans mounted a surprisingly tough attack to open Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing Monday, with Sen. Jeff Sessions calling her belief in the importance of a judge’s personal background “shocking and offensive to me.”

“I will not vote for—no senator should vote for—an individual nominated by any president who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court,” said Session (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. …

“Judge Sotomayor has said that she accepts that her opinions, sympathies, and prejudices will affect her rulings. Could it be that her time as a leader of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a fine organization, provides a clue as to her decision against the firefighters?” Sessions said. “It seems to me that… Judge Sotomayor’s empathy for one group of firefighters turned out to be prejudice against the others.”

Sessions hits exactly on the problem of “empathy” as a model for judicial action. When judges start tweaking their rulings based on the relative sympathy of the plaintiff or the defendant, they deviate from the rule of law into the rule of whim — and even worse, the rule of politically-correct bias. Judges should impartially act according to the law, and not their sympathies.

Many will say that such a standard is impossible to meet in every instance, and I agree; humans see things through the prism of their own experiences. However, we should not use that as an excuse to make bias and sympathy the standard to apply rather than the potential for injustice that they will cause. That is the promise of the statue of Justice, which holds a scale while blindfolded to remind jurists not to tip that scale based on their personal passions.


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Sessions/Liz Cheney 2012!

mankai on July 13, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Sessions is in good company.

83% Say U.S. Legal System Should Treat All Americans Equally

Eighty-three percent (83%) of U.S. voters say America’s legal system should apply the law equally to all Americans rather than using the law to help those who have less power and influence. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 8% disagree.

This belief is shared overwhelmingly by Republicans, Democrats and voters not affiliated with either party.

Rae on July 13, 2009 at 3:31 PM

The look on Sotawhatever’s face is priceless. SCOTUS is definitely above her pay grade.

txag92 on July 13, 2009 at 3:33 PM

83% Say U.S. Legal System Should Treat All Americans Equally

Rae on July 13, 2009 at 3:31 PM

We even have a bit of the Constitution dedicated to that – “Equal Protection” – though it’s interesting that this is the Constitutional prescription most abused by the left to provide inequality in the application of law.

With the left, you can never win. They are a disease determined to kill whatever society is dumb enough to have them.

progressoverpeace on July 13, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Interesting piece from TNR of all places on Soto from back in May.

Says she far from the brightest bulb, a bit of a bully, loud and aggressive, possibly a lesbian, likes harry potter movies, hangs out with her young law clerks as a substitute family. Isn’t particularly flattering, kind of a drudge and weirdo.

JiangxiDad on July 13, 2009 at 3:36 PM

SCOTUS is definitely above her pay grade.

txag92 on July 13, 2009 at 3:33 PM

That’s the thing you see, she always has been. Hopefully, the other justices will tire of her soon, and allow her own intellect to contain her.

JiangxiDad on July 13, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Seriously…why are you bothering to waste bandwidth on this pantomime.

She’s a shoo in

LimeyGeek on July 13, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Sometimes it just needs to be said.

tom on July 13, 2009 at 3:39 PM

This woman is a Pi$$ poor choice to be sure. If she is the best Obama can muster, what a sad day. I can look at her and tell she will make a dangerous Supreme Court Justice.

Every standard in this country is falling like a box of sinkers. Obama is hell bent on ruining the United States, and making good progress.

saiga on July 13, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Seriously…why are you bothering to waste bandwidth on this pantomime.

She’s a shoo in

LimeyGeek on July 13, 2009 at 2:22 PM

If perhaps we could make her rethink this whole confirmation thing… if perhaps we bring enough truth to the table… maybe she herself will back off.

And if not, and the Senate does confirm her, then we can know for the record that every senator who voted for her confirmation doesn’t deserve to be called such.

I wish Sessions was my Senator.

Chaz706 on July 13, 2009 at 3:46 PM

If this is the best legal mind the bar in this country has to offer, perhaps the scads of lawyers in Congress should be trying to reform the legal system, rather than the health care system.

NoDonkey on July 13, 2009 at 3:53 PM

This video, and Sessions’ final statement in it, ought to be required viewing at Harvard Law, beginning at the Admissions Office.

It should also be required viewing in every public grade school civics class in this fine nation.

*sigh*

bluelightbrigade on July 13, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Republican comments (although totally appropriate) are probably not going to change this nomination. However, they may cause a further downturn in Obama’s ratings which would be a major plus.

duff65 on July 13, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Death by Shep: “Sheppuku”

pfamis on July 13, 2009 at 3:56 PM

progressoverpeace on July 13, 2009 at 3:35 PM

The leftists are, quite literally, the enemy within.

Interesting piece from TNR of all places on Soto from back in May.

Says she far from the brightest bulb, a bit of a bully, loud and aggressive, possibly a lesbian, likes harry potter movies, hangs out with her young law clerks as a substitute family. Isn’t particularly flattering, kind of a drudge and weirdo.

JiangxiDad on July 13, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Earlier, I played to the collectivists and tweeted, “I believe Estrada would have made Hispanics far more proud than Sotomayor. The man is brilliant. Sorry, but she doesn’t seem too bright.”

This broad is Obama’s Harriet Miers — an embarrassment. But unlike Miers, Sotomayor will be embarrassing Obama and his Democrats for the rest of her life (or until us Constitutionalists clean out the judicial branch, after we’ve cleaned out the executive and legislative branches).

Rae on July 13, 2009 at 3:56 PM

“‘her belief in the importance of a judge’s personal background “shocking and offensive to me’?” It’s Obama’s belief too — he’s said that for years, which just goes to show how moronic the morons who voted for that moron are in that they have no effing idea that “justice is blind.”

Dark Star on July 13, 2009 at 4:13 PM

Sen. Sessions has been one of my favorites for several years now. It’s almost worth moving to get vote for him.

DFCtomm on July 13, 2009 at 4:26 PM

Republican comments (although totally appropriate) are probably not going to change this nomination. However, they may cause a further downturn in Obama’s ratings which would be a major plus.

duff65 on July 13, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Exactly. We aren’t going to win this, even if we get rid of her there will be another liberal waiting to take her place. We can however, use this as a bully pulpit to preach to the public about our position.

DFCtomm on July 13, 2009 at 4:28 PM

The country doesn’t care any more.

spmat on July 13, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Some of us do.
We need to use any opportunity to force these folks onto the record.

If we change one persons opinion of the Administration, it’s worth it.

massrighty on July 13, 2009 at 4:30 PM

Might as well be consistent. Barry is governing by whim, Congress is passing laws by whim (sure as hell aren’t reading them); so it’s only logical that SCOTUS judge by whim.

GarandFan on July 13, 2009 at 4:30 PM

This broad is Obama’s Harriet Miers — an embarrassment. But unlike Miers, Sotomayor will be embarrassing Obama and his Democrats for the rest of her life
Rae on July 13, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Sotomiers

agmartin on July 13, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Sotomiers

agmartin on July 13, 2009 at 4:45 PM

+1
But, maybe type it SotoMiers, so it’s even more obvious.

massrighty on July 13, 2009 at 5:05 PM

Not to nitpick or anything, but Session’s statement isn’t against Sotomeyer, it is directly against Obama.

“I will not vote for—no senator should vote for—an individual nominated by any president who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court,” said Session (R-Ala.)

His statement is that no senator should vote for anyone nominated by a “president who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, blah blah…” Therefore, if you accept the argument that Obama believes it acceptable to nominate a judge based on their personal background (which, I assume, most here do believe), then any nomination by Obama must be rejected regardless of the nominee. In other words, Obama could nominate Rush or Palin to the High Court, and Sessions’ statement indicates that no senator should vote to confirm them.

So, instead of actually landing any hits on Sotomayor’s record or statements, Sessions actually said “I will vote against any Obama nominee regardless of their qualifications.” No problem with him saying that, but I believe that basic English skills should be used by everyone before congratulating him on excellent speaking and thinking skills without actually comprehending what he said.

Sorry, 7th grade instruction in diagramming and parsing a sentence by Miss M. and the Sister’s of the Sacred Heart will not allow me to ignore such poor grammar and reading comprehension.

New_Jersey_Buckeye on July 13, 2009 at 5:20 PM

I hope this video is seen by all women (the majority of voters in the US). An indecently wealthy white man abusing a defenselss woman just sitting there with a polite smile on her face. No wonder Republicans are in the political desert. They always find a way to cannibalize themselves.

dcwvu on July 13, 2009 at 5:29 PM

Sessions is my senator and is a pretty solid guy on most issues that conservatives care about. I must say I am glad he is chairing the judicial committee on this nomination. His southern hospitality always comes through when he speaks. He is a decent human being and an knowledgeable and experienced senator. He will do a good job.

dcwvu – where to start? You.are.willfully.clueless.

KickandSwimMom on July 13, 2009 at 5:54 PM

I hope this video is seen by all women (the majority of voters in the US). An indecently wealthy white man abusing a defenselss woman just sitting there with a polite smile on her face. No wonder Republicans are in the political desert. They always find a way to cannibalize themselves.

dcwvu on July 13, 2009 at 5:29 PM

Oh she’s defenseless eh? Good thing she’s got big strong liberal men like yourself to protect her.

TheUnrepentantGeek on July 13, 2009 at 5:54 PM

Sessions/Liz Cheney 2012!

mankai on July 13, 2009 at 3:30 PM

You beat me to it… Amen! Where do I donate?

linlithgow on July 13, 2009 at 5:55 PM

I hope this video is seen by all women (the majority of voters in the US). An indecently wealthy white man abusing a defenselss woman just sitting there with a polite smile on her face. No wonder Republicans are in the political desert. They always find a way to cannibalize themselves.

dcwvu on July 13, 2009 at 5:29 PM

Yer a light footed little troll, aren’t ye.

I hope the militant feminists respond to this with a might roar. That will emphasize their silence between October 09 and last month, as they sat gleefully by while Sarah Palin was relelentless smeared by your side.

We will know then, what they are all about; a Democratic tool, only defending women whose politics they like.

BTW, Sotomayer has more money than any individual man on that committee; don’t let the facts distract you from your spewing.

massrighty on July 13, 2009 at 6:01 PM

Eighty-three percent (83%) of U.S. voters say America’s legal system should apply the law equally to all Americans rather than using the law to help those who have less power and influence.

I wish they would listen to Sessions’ fine speech.

burt on July 13, 2009 at 6:11 PM

Seriously…why are you bothering to waste bandwidth on this pantomime.

She’s a shoo in

LimeyGeek on July 13, 2009 at 2:22 PM

LimeyGeek, so you NEVER say “NO” to your wife, cuz it’s futile and you know you won’t get any for awhile?

luvstotango on July 13, 2009 at 6:28 PM

Sotomiers

agmartin on July 13, 2009 at 4:45 PM

+1
But, maybe type it SotoMiers, so it’s even more obvious.

massrighty on July 13, 2009 at 5:05 PM

Brilliant! Love!

Rae on July 13, 2009 at 6:31 PM

Sorry, 7th grade instruction in diagramming and parsing a sentence by Miss M. and the Sister’s of the Sacred Heart will not allow me to ignore such poor grammar and reading comprehension.

New_Jersey_Buckeye on July 13, 2009 at 5:20 PM

Uh, did they teach you how to use apostrophes, too? (Not that you’re wrong on the close parsing of Sessions’ statement, although we’re not really in a position to insist on correct grammar over substance, having lost a more substantial stance to someone with generally excellent grammar, at least on screen.)

brambo_42 on July 14, 2009 at 12:09 AM

Sotomayor makes sexist/racist comments and there are a few people here defending that?

What is wrong with you people?!

scotash on July 14, 2009 at 12:46 AM

I have two problems with the “empathy” approach.

First, you cannot have empathy for everyone. It is just another way of arbitrarily picking losers as well as winners. Sotomayor obviously had little empathy for Frank Ricci. Think about it: The category “wise Latina woman” is not very inclusive.

Second, what about humility? Why are Sotomayor´s feelings more informed or important than anyone else´s? Once you dismiss, as she did, all that “trained impartial judge” stuff, everyone is as good a judge as everyone else, yes?

If you go back far enough, the whole idea of establishing a rule of law was to get independent of the moods and tempers of the rulers. And that is why Sotomayor is a dangerous idiot.

el gordo on July 14, 2009 at 5:39 AM

Democrats slandered Sessions when he sought the bench. They insinuated that he was a racist. They won that round, but he later wound up a Senator and he can now ask any gorrammed question he wants to of their nominees.

Elections have consequences, or so I’m told.

When someone gets on the floor of the Senate and talks about what will happen “in Sonia Sotomayor’s world,” e.g. forced abortions, judicial review of all personnel decisions, and other ridiculous hyperbole (as Kennedy did with Bork), Democrats can complain about her treatment.

How’s that for a fundamental principle of fairness?

DrSteve on July 14, 2009 at 7:54 AM

FINALLY!!!

THIS is what people will vote for. Finally a Republican that show some passion, principles and stands up and exposes the Leftists, their lies, their political/philosophical/ideological hypocrisies, exposes their revisionism, etc…

They will never be your friends, so DESTROY THEM!!!

More of this, please!

nottakingsides on July 14, 2009 at 1:12 PM

hey, you go Sen. Sessions. Anyone that thinks the Klan is o.k. knows a rascist when he sees one. .http://blackpoliticalthought.blogspot.com/2009/05/senator-jeff-sessions-who-has-shady.html

greataunty on July 14, 2009 at 2:30 PM

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