Early August Sotomayor vote eyed

Though he said some of Sotomayor's speeches " bug the heck out of me," Graham said he believes she's never let her opinions affect her judging and reiterated his prediction that she's headed for confirmation.

"We'll see what your future is going to be. I think it's going to be pretty bright," Graham told the judge.

Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoman who is one of the Republican Party's most conservative members, did not rule out voting for Sotomayor.

"I have yet to decide where I'm going on this," he told the judge.

Coburn said he is "deeply troubled" by some of her speeches but expressed admiration for her life story and her testimony. "I am mightily impressed," he said.

Democrats continued to emphasize Sotomayor's record as a tough law and order prosecutor and judge.

Under questioning by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sotomayor described a conviction she obtained in a "very complex" case against two men who were distributing kiddie porn films as a prosecutor and a conviction she upheld against a former Connecticut mayor in accused of sexually abusing two young relatives.

Witnesses appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday afternoon to discuss her nomination.

Frank Ricci, a white Connecticut firefighter whose reverse-discrimination case prompted the Supreme Court last month to overturn one of Sotomayor's decisions, said "I studied harder than I ever had before. Reading, making flash cards, highlighting and reading again all while listening to prepared tapes. I went before numerous panels to prepare for the oral assessment. I was a virtual absentee father and husband for months because of it."

Ricci was denied a promotion when city officials scrapped an exam, concluding that too few minorities had qualified. His challenge was rejected by Sotomayor and two other appeals court judges in a brief order before the Supreme Court overturned the decision.

Benjamin Vargas, who scored high enough for promotion and also joined with the white firefighters who challenged the New Haven action discarding of the test results, said "I am a Hispanic, and proud of the heritage and background that Judge Sotomayor and I share, and I congratulate Judge Sotomayor."

Yet he stressed how he had scored high enough to earn a promotion to captain and was denied it because of the city's action. "We did not ask for sympathy or empathy. We asked only for even-handed enforcement of the law. And prior to the majority justices' opinion in our case, we were denied that," he said.

Robert Morgenthau, who has been district attorney in New York since 1975, spoke on behalf of his protégé.

He called Sotomayor, who came to his officer after graduating from Yale Law School, "one of the brightest and one of the most mature" of his new hires.

He stressed her attention to the consequences of crime in neighborhoods and said she "understood that every case was important to the victim" of a crime." He also said she "simply would not be pushed around" by others on the prosecution's team or in other positions at the courthouse.

"The judge will be the only member of the Supreme Court with experience trying cases in the state courts," he added, predicting she would be an "outstanding" member of the high court.

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