Bench Memos

Preview of Day 1 of the Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing

Don’t expect much action today.  In particular, there will be no questioning of Judge Sotomayor today.

The hearing will begin at 10:00 or so.  After Judge Sotomayor introduces family members, the senators will each make 10-minute opening statements.  There are 19 senators on the Judiciary Committee—12 Democrats and 7 Republicans—so opening statements will take around three hours.  (The Washington Post’s lead article today says that the senators’ opening statements will be 20 minutes—which would threaten more than six hours in total—but other sources say 10 minutes per senator.)

Sotomayor’s home-state senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, will then make their own statements introducing Sotomayor.  (I don’t know whether Schumer will also make an opening statement in his capacity as a committee member.)  Sotomayor will then be sworn in and make her opening statement, probably no more than 10 minutes or so.  The hearing will then recess for the day. 

This New York Times article gives a helpful summary of the day-by-day schedule, though I think that it’s optimistic in estimating that Sotomayor’s opening statement today will occur around 1:30 p.m.  (Factoring in lunch and other breaks, I’d guess that Sotomayor makes her opening statement much closer to 3:30 or 4:00.)

What to look for?  Sotomayor’s opening statement will, of course, be the natural focus of attention.  You can expect a moving account of her life story, combined with a declaration of her commitment to impartiality that aims to answer a primary line of concern about her record. 

Pay attention also to the opening statements of Republican senators, which should provide a preview of how their questioning tomorrow will unfold. 

I’ll aim to provide some running commentary during the day.