The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary committee launched the Federalist Society's annual convention this morning with a call to oppose President Barack Obama's most liberal nominees for the federal bench.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said that the confirmation process this summer of Justice Sonia Sotomayor showed that conservatives have a superior approach to interpreting the law. He noted that Sotomayor declined to endorse the role of empathy in judging, as endorsed by Obama, and he said conservatives should keep pursuing a freewheeling, public debate on the role of federal judges.
“We are in a long and difficult fight,” Sessions said. “We must take the debate right to the American people.”
The three-day Federalist Society convention is taking place at downtown Washington’s Renaissance Mayflower Hotel. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are among the other speakers on this year’s program.
Sessions, in his first year as the chief GOP advocate on judicial nominees, said Republicans would not attempt to filibuster the vast majority of Obama’s picks. But he said that Obama and some of his nominees are “risking the moral authority of the law, and that’s what gives the law its power.”
“Under the president’s vision, the Constitution, I would suggest, is no longer the law of the land. Instead, each court… becomes a constitutional convention unto itself,” Sessions said.
He singled out U.S. District Judge David Hamilton of the Southern District of Indiana as too liberal, citing rulings on prayer in the Indiana legislature, on abortion, and on criminal sentencing. Obama nominated Hamilton in March for elevation to the 7th Circuit. A vote to end debate on Hamilton’s nomination is expected as soon as Tuesday.