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Reflections on the final day of confirmation hearings

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Yesterday marked the final day of the confirmation hearings and the last day where the public will hear directly from Judge Sotomayor.  The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman hopes to have a full committee vote on Judge Sotomayor’s nomination next Tuesday, July 21st, 2009.

On the fourth and final day of the confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayor continued to demonstrate her extensive legal expertise and judicial experience.  Senators, such as Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), continued to ask repetitive questions about her association with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) and specifically on her position on abortion rights.  Senator Graham stated he had not seen her personally advocate for these positions and that leaning towards her positions on these issues are not evident in her judging.  The Congressional Research Service analysis has also found that Judge Sotomayor’s opinions as an appellate judge were consistently committed to judicial precedent.

Questions about the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade were asked by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).  Senator Coburn questioned whether the Supreme Court’s rulings have ended the controversy surrounding the decision in Roe v. Wade.  She recognized that the rulings on the right to an abortion have not ended the national controversy over the issue.  Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) confronted her on her affiliation with PRLDEF and specifically on the amicus brief the organization signed regarding public funding for abortion for low-income women.  Judge Sotomayor explained that her affiliation with PRLDEF was as a member of their Board of Directors and, as such, was not involved in the staff’s daily work of preparing litigation or legal briefs.  She stated that she did not review the PRLDEF briefs released; including the brief they supported against onerous restrictions on federal funding of abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy in the Fourteenth Amendment.

For further information (in English) on the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF)’s position regarding the specific case related to Medicaid funding for abortion in Illinois, please review the Fact Sheet by Alliance for Justice (AFJ). As stated in AFJ’s fact sheet, PRLDEF’s current president and general counsel confirmed that as a board member, Sotomayor “was not directly involved” in preparing litigation materials on behalf of the organization.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting next week to consider Sotomayor’s nomination and a full vote in the Senate may come as early as August 7th.

Please stay tuned for more information from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health as the votes unfold, and visit our Guide to the Supreme Court for more information on the nomination, how the Supreme Court works, current sitting Justices, and how a case gets to the Supreme Court.