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Sen. Tom Coburn says nominee must prove impartiality

CHRIS CASTEEL, Washington Bureau Published: July 14, 2009
WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn lectured Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Monday on her duty to be impartial and told her she must prove to the Senate that she would "adhere to the proper role of a judge.”

On the first day of her nomination hearings, Sotomayor told the Senate Judiciary Committee that her record as a U.S. district judge and federal appeals court judge "reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms ... In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand.”

Coburn, R-Muskogee, lauded Sotomayor’s accomplishments, but he expressed concern about some statements she had made outside the courtroom and said he didn’t know whether they were meant to be "provocative” or were sincere.

"I’m deeply concerned by your assertion that the law is uncertain,” Coburn told the judge. "That goes completely against what I just said about the rule of law being the glue that binds us together. And your praise for an unpredictable system of justice — I think we want it to be predictable. We want it to be predictable in its fairness and the fact in how cases are viewed. And it shouldn’t matter what judge you get; it should matter what the law is and what the facts are.”

Coburn also said it was "extremely troubling” to him that Sotomayor had questioned whether "impartiality in judging — including transcending personal sympathies and prejudices — is possible in most cases, or is even desirable.”

Coburn’s comments echoed those of other Republican senators on the committee, though one predicted she would be confirmed unless she had "a complete meltdown.” Democratic senators defended Sotomayor, saying she brought her own perspective to the bench, but not an agenda.

Senators and Sotomayor made opening statements Monday.

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