Last week, political nerds across the country were all talking about one thing: Sonia Sotomayor, the woman President Obama appointed to the Supreme Court after Justice David Souter stepped down. The hearings began last week and were broadcast live on C-SPAN and other cable news networks, but since you have a job and school and a dog or whatever, we won't blame you if you weren't glued to your TV.
The Senate Judiciary Committee votes on her nomination next week, so here's a rundown of what you really need to know from the hearings:
In May, Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced that he'd be stepping down
to retire. The President responded with his choice for the bench: Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Second Circuit, in New York state.Click here
to check out the details from the hearings.
Of the Supreme Court's nine justices, the only woman is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed in 1993 by President Clinton. The only nonwhite justice is Clarence Thomas, appointed in 1991 by President George Bush. There has only been one other female Supreme Court justice -- Sandra Day O'Connor, who served from 1981 to 2006. If Sotomayor gets confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first Latina ever appointed. But first, she faces a battle in the Senate.
Conservatives have predictably been up in arms over the Democratic president's pick. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) claims she would have "undue influence from her own personal race, gender
." Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) also worried that she would have "personal bias based on ethnicity and gender
."The Senators Talked Way More Than She Did
According to Politico, the senators asking questions at the hearing out-talked Sotomayor by about a third
. No surprise, since every senator loves to get his 15 minutes of camera time. But should the nominee have had more of a chance to talk?She Talked About Gun Control
Sotomayor was asked about two big issues: gun control and the treatment of suspected terrorists. She talked about a 2008 court case
that "recognized an individual right to bear arms as a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment, an important right, and one that limited the actions the federal government could take with respect to the possession of firearms. And in that case we're talking about handguns." In other words, she recognized that protecting people's Second Amendment right to own a gun -- within certain limits -- is important.They Brought Up Her Infamous "Wise Latina" Comment
One of the biggest points of controversy around Sotomayor has been a 2001 speech where she said: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." The senators questioned why she made that remark and whether she could be a fair and impartial judge. Sotomayor said that she was attempting a "rhetorical flourish
" on an old quote by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor: "A wise old woman and a wise old man, at the end of the day, can reach the same conclusion." Sotomayor admitted her rhetorical flourish "fell flat."There Were Anti-Abortion Protesters
Numerous anti-abortion protesters crashed the hearings throughout the week, one of whom managed to yell, "Filibuster Sotomayor! She's a baby killer! The GOP will lose the pro-life vote
!" before being removed from the building by Capitol police. Many pro-life groups have been vocal about their opposition to Sotomayor's nomination. For the record, Sotomayor toed the line when asked about her views on abortion; she said she would "follow the law
."Now we wait until August 3
The Senate hearings lasted Monday through Thursday. On Friday, a number of witnesses testified for or against
Sotomayor, and many senators have since publicly announced which way they will vote. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.), among others, announced on his Twitter page
that he would be voting for Sotomayor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, made up of 12 Democrats and seven Republicans, votes on her confirmation Tuesday. If they pass her, then the full Senate votes on her confirmation on August 3. At this point, many view her as a shoo-in. Nisha Chittal is Associate Editor of CitizenJanePolitics.com and blogs at Politicoholic. She has written for ReadWriteWeb, the European Courier and UniversityChic.com, and is passionate about women's issues, new media and politics.