After a day of questions aimed at determining whether Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor could remain objective in deciding cases, one Republican lawmaker switched gears and asked her pointed questions about her temperament as a judge.
"Now, let's talk about you," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "I like you, by the way, for whatever that matters. Since I may vote for you, that ought to matter to you."
Graham brought up the existence of anonymous quotes compiled in the "Almanac of the Federal Judiciary," a book of judicial profiles. The quotes came to light after her nomination and caused a furor as her supporters said no such comments about the judge's temperament had ever been made on the record by any lawyer.
The comments about Sotomayor make her stand out "like a sore thumb in terms of your temperament," Graham said.
"She's a terror on the bench. She's temperamental, excitable, she seems angry. She's overall aggressive, not very judicial," Graham said. "She does not have a very good temperament. She abuses lawyers. She really lacks judicial temperament. She believes in an out -- she behaves in an out-of-control manner. She makes inappropriate outbursts. She's nasty to lawyers. She will attack lawyers for making an argument she does not like. She can be a bit of a bully."
"I do ask tough questions at oral arguments," she said in response to the criticisms.
Sotomayor explained that she gives lawyers appearing in her court "an opportunity to explain their positions on both sides and to persuade me that they're right," and noted that the judges on her court, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, have a reputation for peppering lawyers with questions.
During the line of questioning, Sotomayor, 55, responded in measured tones and frequently looked down to her table to take notes.
Pressed further by Graham, who asked her if she thinks she has a "a temperament problem," she said no -- and that she "can only talk about what I know about my relationship with the judges of my court and with the lawyers who appear regularly from our circuit. And I believe that my reputation is stuck as such that I ask the hard questions, but I do it evenly for both sides."
Graham suggested that "obviously you've accomplished a lot in your life, but maybe these hearings are time for self-reflection."
The Democratic majority on the panel immediately responded with a statement calling Graham's claims "baseless" and citing praise of her judicial style by legal organizations and her colleagues on the bench.
The statement also used the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- in which she indicated that her colleagues Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer have similar manners of questioning -- to question whether critics are holding Sotomayor to "an unfair double standard."
Graham also pursued a line of questioning that many other Republicans on the panel did before him: Whether Sotomayor's past remark that a "wise Latina" might arrive at a better conclusion than a white man reflects views that could taint her rulings.
Graham pointed out that if he, as a white male, made a similar comment, critics would "have my head."
"Others could not remotely come close to that statement and survive. Whether that's right or wrong, I think that's a fact," he added.