Continuing a pattern of ignoring conservatives' support for judicial nominees who have stressed the importance of personal experience, The Washington Post quoted Sen. Jeff Sessions saying he voted against confirming Sonia Sotomayor because, he concluded, she “could not 'set aside her personal opinions and biases.' ” But the Post ignored Sessions' vote in favor of Justice Samuel Alito, who discussed the importance of his personal experience during his confirmation hearing.
From the July 29 edition of the Post:
The panel's other Republicans gave consistently negative appraisals of Sotomayor's judicial rulings, her statements off the bench, and her testimony before the committee. The ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), himself rejected by the same committee for a federal judgeship before he joined the Senate, said he had concluded that Sotomayor could not “set aside her personal opinions and biases.”
The Post ignored Sessions' support of Alito, who cited importance of personal experience
2006: Sessions voted for Alito, who highlighted the importance of his personal experience. During his confirmation hearings in 2006, Alito highlighted his compassion for people involved in immigration and discrimination cases and discussed the importance of his personal experience. Alito stated: “When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.”
Conservatives have repeatedly expressed support for empathy in judicial nominees
Justice Clarence Thomas: “I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does.” Indeed, during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, responding to Sen. Herb Kohl's (D-WI) question, “I'd like to ask you why you want this job,” Thomas stated in part: “I believe, Senator, that I can make a contribution, that I can bring something different to the Court, that I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does.”
- President George H.W. Bush cited Thomas' “great empathy.” Moreover, then-President George H.W. Bush cited Thomas' “great empathy” in his remarks announcing that he was nominating Thomas to serve on the Supreme Court.
- Sen. Kit Bond cited Thomas' “compassion and understanding.” Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) similarly stated: “Though his skills as a lawyer and a judge are obvious, they are not, in my view, the only reason that this committee should vote to approve Judge Thomas's nomination. Just as important is his compassion and understanding of the impact that the Supreme Court has on the lives of average Americans.”
- John Yoo touted the unique perspective that he said Thomas brings to the bench. In his review of Thomas' 2007 memoir, My Grandfather's Son (HarperCollins), former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo touted the unique perspective that he said Thomas brings to the bench. Yoo wrote that Thomas “is a black man with a much greater range of personal experience than most of the upper-class liberals who take potshots at him” and argued that Thomas' work on the court has been influenced by his understanding of the less fortunate acquired through personal experience.
Several Republican senators have cited compassion as a qualification for judicial confirmation. Several former Republican senators, including Strom Thurmond (SC), Al D'Amato (NY), and Mike DeWine (OH), cited compassion as a qualification for judicial confirmation:
- Thurmond repeatedly highlighted importance of “compassion” in Supreme Court justices. During the confirmation hearings for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Thurmond stated that “compassion” was one of the “special qualifications I believe an individual should possess to serve on the Supreme Court,” adding that "[w]hile a nominee must be firm in his or her decisions, they should show mercy when appropriate." Similarly, during the confirmation hearings for Justice Stephen Breyer, Thurmond said “compassion” was among “the special criteria which I believe an individual must possess to serve on the Supreme Court.”
- D'Amato cited Sotomayor's “compassion” in supporting her nomination as an appellate court judge. During a 1997 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the confirmation of several judicial nominations, D'Amato stated: “I predicted to this committee, almost five years ago, that Judge Sotomayor would be an exemplary, outstanding justice. She has demonstrated that, repeatedly. She has shown compassion, wisdom, one of the great intellects on the court.”
- DeWine wanted Roberts to “bring to the court your compassion.” During Chief Justice John Roberts' confirmation hearing, DeWine stated: “We need you to bring to the court your compassion and your understanding for the lives of others who haven't been as successful as you have been.” DeWine continued: “We need you to bring to the court your strong commitment to equal justice for all. And we need you to always remember that your decisions will make a real difference in the lives of real people.”
But media have repeatedly ignored conservatives' double standard on empathy
Ignoring Alito, Thomas, Post labeled judicial empathy a “liberal” idea. In a July 19 article, the Post characterized the view “that a judge should have empathy” as “an idea floating within liberal legal thought,” ignoring statements by numerous conservatives stressing the importance of personal experience and compassion in judicial nominees.
Nightly news shows ignored GOP's past embrace of “empathy.” In July 13 reports on the first day of Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, ABC's World News and NBC's Nightly News reported Republicans' criticisms of a judge employing “empathy,” ignoring statements by numerous conservatives.
Ignoring Alito vote, New York Times quotes Sessions saying empathy has “no place in the courtroom.” In a July 13 article, the Times quoted Sessions' assertion that empathy “has no place in the courtroom,” but did not note that he voted to confirm Alito.