Within the Scope

Blogging on Administrative Law and the Public Sector

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Sotomayor Nomination – Part II

While the story has already been covered in great detail by the Washington Examiner and the Washington Post, to my mind the most interesting feature of the run-up to the confirmation hearings for Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is the role of the new GOP-lead of the Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).

Not since the story of Joseph in Genesis, has there been such a dramatic and ironic turn in fortune. Sessions, who 23 years ago had his own appointment to the federal bench derailed by charges that he had made racist statements (a claim he vigorously denied then, as he does today), will lead Republican inquiries into the fitness of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who herself has been charged by critics as making racially insensitive remarks. The turnabout for Sessions did not happen overnight. Ten years after Sessions lost his bid to be a federal district court judge, the first of President Reagan’s nominees to be turned away by the Senate, he won the U.S. Senate seat of a man who voted against his confirmation – Howell Heflin. Last month, Sessions replaced as GOP-lead on the Judiciary Committee another Senator who voted against his confirmation – Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. (Senator Specter has since said that he regretted that vote.)

And Senator Sessions, perhaps not unlike Joseph of the Bible story, has been far more gracious in power than others were to him. He’s publicly urged fellow conservatives not to label Judge Sotomayor a racist, remarking: “You know, that's such a loaded word, and I don't think it's appropriate to use it in this context.” He would know.

Now, if only the nation could have seven years of plenty….