GOP on Sotomayor Hearing: What’s the Rush?

Jun 10, 2009 7:54am

ABC News Sarah Tobianksi reports: Shortly after Tuesday's announcement by Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, that July 13th would be the first day of Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, Senate Republicans began an ardent pushback, saying the timeframe is too soon and unrealistic.

“It’s far more important we do this right than we do it quick,” said Sen Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the committee, on the Senate floor.

Democrats pointed out that from announcement to confirmation, Chief Justice John Roberts' process took a total of just 72 days.

“She has 10 times as many decisions as Roberts did,” rebutted Sen. Jon Kyl, D-Ariz., Senate Republican Whip and a member of the Judiciary Committee.” “It takes a long time to go through that material. We’ll simply have to wait and see how that review goes. I’ve checked, and it’s not going really fast. It’s hard to do.”

Republicans claim they would have to read 76 cases per day of her record to be prepared for her hearings, math based on the fact that Judge Sotomayor has heard appeals on over three thousand cases in her current job on the Court of Appeals.

In her 17 years on the bench Sotomayor has participated in over 3,000 cases most during her time as a trial judge. On the appeals court she has authored 264 opinions and signed onto hundreds of others.

In Tuesday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president is “pleased” with the Senate’s July hearing date, adding that Sotomayor’s time span from nomination to hearing of 48 days is close to the average of 51 days for the past nine nominees.

"There were suggestions that this hearing should take place after Labor Day," Gibbs said. "If we wait until after Labor Day to have a hearing, that would actually be the longest amount of time ever for a Supreme Court nominee, from the announcement of the nomination to the beginning of the hearing."

Gibbs pointed out that Sotomayor had twice been confirmed by the Senate for other judgeships, in 1992 and 1998.

White House aides say that with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s caseload and timeline, the per-day timeline would be higher than Sotomayor’s.

From nomination to hearing date, members of the Judiciary Committee would have to study about 61 cases per day for Sotomayor and about 74 for Alito.

This is because Alito’s nomination-to-hearing period was 70 days and because Alito was on 5,161 panels issuing opinions.

Alito also had over 800 opinions and, unlike Sotomayor’s publicly available opinion, documents needed for Alito came from presidential libraries — some 75,000 pages – came in days before his hearing began.

“There is adequate time between her nomination and the beginning of her hearing to go through her legal opinions, her statements,” Gibbs said. “And that's why the questionnaire was sent to the Senate in a record time.”

Gibbs quipped that "we appreciate the notion that she represents a justice that has experience unlike anybody that's been nominated in a hundred years."

– Sarah Tobianski

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