As the Judiciary Committee broke for lunch, David Brown, The National Law Journal's editor in chief, chatted with Tony Mauro, Incisive Media's Supreme Court correspondent, about the action so far on Day 2 of the Sotomayor confirmation hearings.
Brown: Tony, thanks once again for taking the time to chat. How would you describe the tone of this morning's hearing, particularly compared to past give-and-take sessions between senators and nominees?
Mauro: I think Judge Sotomayor captured the morning with a calm, painstaking manner that took most of the sting and energy out of the Republicans' attacks. Senator Sessions in particular tried to rattle her, and she did not rattle.
I don't mean to overstate the importance of tone and manner, but it really does matter. Robert Bork is exhibit A for that proposition; his manner was off-putting in the extreme. Exhibit B: John Roberts Jr., whose telegenic style calmed the waters and made him seem reasonable no matter how much liberals tried to portray him as out of the mainstream.
Brown: As a veteran high court watcher, did her demeanor this morning give you any clues about how she might behave as a justice?
Mauro: She seemed very deferential, and more than once spoke of the importance of collegiality, which is something her future colleagues value highly. And she seemed to be aware that, as much as the justices themselves deny it, some of them probably tuned in on the hearings. When Sen. Kohl asked her to name her favorite justices, Sotomayor demurred dramatically, out of concern that by singling out a favorite, she’d be impliedly criticizing the others. Those features bode well.
And one other: she said that she’d being a “new voice” to the court’s discussion of cameras in the Supreme Court. She said she’d be collegial and listen to their views, but made it clear she’s no shrinking violet and will let her views (seemingly in favor of cameras) be known when the time is right. I think that approach will go over well.
Brown: You actually got right to my next question: Do you think, given Sotomayor’s response, that there’s now a realistic chance for cameras — or is this still just a fantasy?
Mauro: I think her well-timed and well-mannered advocacy will improve the chances for cameras more than any development in recent years. But it will still be a very hard sell. Too many of the other justices seem set against it, for a variety of reasons ranging form security concerns to the fear of cheapening the institution by over-exposure. But to have a new justice in their midst who has experience with cameras (they are allowed in the Second Circuit) will re-launch the discussion in a healthy way.
Brown: What will you be looking for in the afternoon session?
Mauro: I think we will see some Republican pushback to Sotomayor’s answers from the morning session. In spite of her calming tone, I think the Republican members of the committee will find her answers unsatisfying, especially her explanations of her controversial “wise Latina” remark and others that have made it sound like she will bring her background and personal views to her decision-making. She and Democratic allies won’t fold under the attacks, but it may be a contentious afternoon.
Brown: Should be interesting to watch when they come back at 2. Thanks again Tony.