Senate Democratic Leader: ‘If I’m Fortunate, I Won’t Have To Read One’ of Sotomayor’s Judicial Opinions

By Matt Cover | June 3, 2009 | 3:41 PM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (AP Photo)

( - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that he has not read any of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s legal opinions, and that if her confirmation goes through, he hopes he will not have to read any of them.
Speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference following Sotomayor’s first day of interviews with Senate leaders, Reid, when asked by, said that nothing in the judge’s record troubled him, including Sotomayor’s January 2009 ruling that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states.
“I understand that during her career she has written hundreds and hundreds of opinions,” said Reid. “I haven’t read a single one of them. And if I’m fortunate, before we end this, I won’t have to read one of them.”

Despite never having read any of Sotomayor’s opinions, Reid praised President Barack Obama’s pick to replace retiring Justice David Souter, saying Sotomayor’s record spoke for itself.
“She’s a very impressive person,” Reid told reporters. “Her record and qualifications speak for themselves. She is a person who is going to be a fantastic, superb Supreme Court justice.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that Republicans will be examining every one of Sotomayor’s 3,600 cases, reviewing her record carefully before deciding whether she is fit to serve as a Supreme Court justice.
“Our approach is that, as the president has pointed out, this is a nominee with a long history, been on the federal bench for 17 years, participated in 3,600 cases,” said McConnell. “So we’re going to go through the process, read all the cases, other expressions like law review articles so we can get the full set of facts on this nominee.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said that regardless of Sotomayor’s record, any candidate for the federal bench needed to understand that judges were “appointed and not anointed.”
“I believe the American people want a judge, want Supreme Court Justices who understand that they are subordinate to the law, that they are servants of the law, that they are appointed and not anointed,” said Sessions.
Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was asked by about Sotomayor’s ruling on the Second Amendment, saying that he would withhold judgment until he had read the opinion in full.
“I think it’s something that will have to be looked at,” said Sessions. “I frankly have not studied that opinion and I look forward to doing that.”
Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said that, as a lawyer who has practiced before the Supreme Court, he hoped Judge Sotomayor would not let her emotions override the law, adding that the empathy standard set by President Obama was the wrong test for a Supreme Court nominee.
“When President Obama was a Senator, and he decided to vote against both now Justice Alito and Justice Roberts, he made a statement on the floor, and he said that in 95 percent of the cases judges agree, but in that last 5 percent there may not be precedent, there may not be law that dictates the result and that’s when you have to let your feelings, your preconceived notions, your sense of empathy and other factors enter in including whether you want to help the little guy,” said Kyl.
“That’s wrong. His test is wrong,” said Kyl. “And I would hope that this nominee does not agree with the president’s test. As a lawyer who has practiced before the Supreme Court, you always have a precedent to argue to the Court -- you’re never without one.” Correspondent Edwin Mora contributed to this report.