Sessions focuses on why Sotomayor dealt with Ricci in such a cursory manner and whether the firefighters should have felt like they received a full hearing from her. In perhaps her worst answer she declares that they incorporated the district court opinion so they got their answer. But she had an obligation to review that, set out the facts, and provide her legal analysis. And, as a colleague reminds me, the district court decision was not published.
A wise judge put it this way:
The process of judging is enhanced when the arguments and concerns of the parties to the litigation are understood and acknowledged. That is why I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then by 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 justice system. My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case.
We can debate whether Sessions could have relied more heavily on some of Sotomayor’s own words (and perhaps he will in future rounds) but his thirty minutes may have been the most effective questioning of a Supreme Court nominee in recent memory. You certainly got the sense that she has changed her tune — just in time for this hearing!