TOP LINE: Sotomayor’s Success Will Take Time to Measure

By Caitlin Taylor

Aug 10, 2009 3:07pm

ABC News’ Kim Berryman reports:


This weekend Justice Sonia Sotomayor was sworn into the nation’s highest court as the third woman and first Latina in history to hold the position of Supreme Court Justice.


Rachel Brand, former Justice Department official and counsel to the George W. Bush administration stopped by ABC’s Top Line today saying Sotoymayor’s success will take time to measure.

“Whether she’ll be effective remains to be seen. It depends on how the other justices view her, whether they respect her, whether her…initial take on a case is in the mainstream or not” Brand said adding that new justices should be given at least a year to settle into their position on the dais, “so we’ll just have to see.”


Sotomayor replaces Justice David Souter who retired earlier this year after nearly two decades on the Supreme Court. Brand noted that despite the liberal views of both justices, the difference in Sotomayor’s personality may change the dynamic of the court.


“Justice Souter was  a very scholarly man, a very quiet man and very nice person but…if you look at [Sotomayor’s] personality you would think that she would be more outgoing in advocating her position with other judges than he was. He didn’t do a whole lot of that.”


The newest justice was widely hailed as a cool, calm and collected success during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this summer. However, as someone who helped prepare Bush nominees Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito for their testimonies, Brand says Sotomayor’s manner in the Senate may not be an accurate indicator of her judicial behavior.


“Being an advocate in the Supreme Court or being a judge is completely different from going as a nominee, as a witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The latter is very political, the former’s very legal.”


In the days leading up to their respective Senate hearing, Roberts’ and Alito’s preparations included 16 moot courts each of which lasted nearly four hours. One must wonder if, in Sotomayor’s preparations, any lucky individual got to play an intimidating senator, spitting hard hitting questions at the nominee to gage her reaction. 


However, Brand assured viewers “we didn’t play particular senators [for Bush’s nominees], we played a generic senator; we asked questions in the role the whole time. You go back and forth with [the nominee] about how they’re going to answer hot button questions you know they’re going to get.”


Brand admitted that she has sometimes told nominees to avoid certain questions, but would not divulge which issues she steered the Chief Justice away from prior to his testimony in 2005.


To hear more about how SCOTUS nominees prepare for the confirmation process, watch our interview with Rachel Brand on “Top Line” HERE.


Also today on Top Line, the Subway Series premier! Beginning today, ABC News’ Jon Karl hosts a series of interviews with top Congressional leaders on the subway between the Senate and House office buildings and the Capitol. Today, he rode with Senator Roland Burris (D-IL). 

Burris announced last month that he would not be seeking reelection to his controversial senate seat. However, he told Top Line, “you never say never in this business.”


Watch the entire subway ride HERE.

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