Sotomayor’s opening statement was filled with biography and gratitude. As for her philosophy, gone are doubts about a judge’s ability to be impartial and entirely absent are any of the sentiments voiced in her “wise Latina” and many other speeches. She intoned:
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. And it is clear, I believe, that my record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms; interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress’s intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court. In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand.
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.
So questions remain. Why was Frank Ricci denied an opinion “setting out what the law requires and then by explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected”? How does this statement of studied neutrality mesh with dozens of speeches to the contrary? That and more will no doubt be the subject of questions in the days ahead.