Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor told the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday that she has "no personal views about the death penalty that would interfere with my obligation to apply the law as a judge."
In written responses to questions following up on a range of issues raised at her confirmation hearing last week, Sotomayor also explained her decision to resign from the all-female Belizean Grove, a networking group of professional women, shortly before her confirmation hearing last week. She said that because the club includes men in its activities and has not denied membership to a man seeking admission, she did not believe it engaged in "invidious discrimination on the basis of gender." But, she added, "because my membership raised concerns on the part of senators considering my nomination to the Supreme Court, I resigned from the organization."
The 49 pages of questions and answers represented the efforts by Republican senators to draw Sotomayor out about issues they had sought answers to last week.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., asked several questions in writing on the nominee's views about use of foreign law in Supreme Court decision making. She voiced opposition to such use during testimony, but Sessions confronted her with articles and speeches by Sotomayor expressing support. Sotomayor repeated her refrain that "American courts should not use foreign law in the sense of relying on decisions of foreign courts as binding or controlling precedent ... In some limited circumstances foreign courts can be a source of ideas, just as law review articles and treatises can be sources of ideas." She said that in her 17 years on the federal bench she had never "used or considered" foreign law in reaching a decision.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked Sotomayor about numerous landmark Court decisions -- from Brown v. Board of Education to Lochner v. New York -- and whether in each one, the Court had made law or merely interpreted it. Sotomator repeatedly sidestepped the question, stating that the Court interprets law, while not saying whether it had followed that practice in each case. She did allow, however, that cases such as Lochner and Dred Scott v. Sandford, are "widely regarded as wrongly decided."
Sotomayor also repeated her fidelity to precedent, though in response to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, she said that "in some circumstances the Court will revisit its prior precedent." Echoing the view of Justice Louis Brandeis in 1932, she said precedent is "not an inexorable command," and can be re-examined under circumstances the Court itself has outlined.
In an answer to a question from Sessions, Sotomayor said the "legal staff of the White House" had drafted the written answers to the senators' question, which she then edited and gave final approval to. It is not unusual for the committee to allow for written follow-up questions before acting on a judicial nomination. The committee is set to meet this morning to take the next step toward confirmation, but is not likely to actually take a vote.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.