Two senators at opposite ends of their political careers questioned Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor this afternoon. Neither had much luck getting answers.
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is fighting for his political life ahead of a 2010 Democratic primary election, despite his nearly 30 years in the Senate, while Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has been in Congress barely a week after a long career as a satirist, author, and radio personality. They shared a stage this afternoon as the Senate Judiciary Committee finished up its first round of questions for Sotomayor.
Specter, a former chairman of the committee from his time as a Republican, began by asking Sotomayor whether the Supreme Court should hear more cases. The Court had 161 signed opinions in 1985, he said, but only 67 signed opinions in 2007.
"How about more cases?" he asked.
Sotomayor, saying she didn't want to answer before meeting with her potential colleagues on the Court, demurred. "I don't like making statements about what I think the Court can do until I've experienced the process," she said. She also declined to answer questions about the weight she would give abortion precedents and how much justices should take into account congressional fact-finding.
She did, however, hint at her view of cameras in the Supreme Court's courtroom. She noted that she allowed cameras in her courtroom as a District Court judge and added, "I will certainly relay those positive experiences if I'm fortunate enough to be there with my colleagues."
Franken, drawing frequent chuckles from the audience in contrast to Specter's prosecutorial style, received similar answers from Sotomayor. She declined to weigh in on whether corporations have too much control over the Internet, how she defines "judicial activism," and whether there are any limits on Congress' power to protect voting rights.
The closest she got to answering Franken came when he asked whether the Constitution contains a fundamental right to privacy. Sotomayor responded that the Court has recognized such a right "for over 90 years." "This line of cases started with a recognition that parents have a right to direct the education of their children," she said. "That basic right to privacy has been recognized and was recognized."