Feeling the heat of four Republican challengers, each of who claims to be more conservative that Bennett, as well as one announced Democratic challenger, Utah Senator Bob Bennett announced on July 17th, 2009 that he will vote against the confirmation of Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, citing as his primary reason past comments indicating a tendency toward judicial activism. Full stories in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News and KCPW 88.3 FM.
"This has been a close call for me because I support the president's constitutional prerogative to nominate justices, and I am reluctant to substitute my judgment for his," Bennett said. "However, in the end, I have decided that I must vote no." Bennett made his decision the day after the Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. The Democratic-led Senate is expected to easily confirm her in the next few weeks despite repeated Republican criticism. The committee has scheduled a vote for Tuesday July 21st on her confirmation.
So far, only two other senators have publicly committed no a No vote; Republicans Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, both of Kentucky. Fellow Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, has yet to say how he will vote.
Senator Bennett remains troubled by her answers to questions about the 2nd Amendment, her past speeches and the use of foreign law. In one of her recent rulings, Sotomayor and other 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges said the 2nd Amendment does not bind the states, only the federal government. In addition, Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark remains an issue; Sotomayor tap-danced around it, saying that it was a "failed rhetorical flourish" meant to inspire Latino youths and that it was not meant to say that one race or ethnicity had an advantage when it came to judging. Sotomayro has also been criticized for saying that the circuit court is where "policy is made", but she explained what she meant is that circuit-court rulings set precedent that affects all similar cases.
In response, Bennett said that, "While she is continually defending her comments as misunderstood, the fact remains that she has made statements that clearly imply she believes judges are tasked with policymaking." It should be noted that both Bennett and Hatch voted to confirm Sotomayor to the Court of Appeals in 1998.
Bennett further criticized Sotomayor's judicial record, saying "Eighty percent of the cases she's participated in that have been heard or considered by the Supreme Court have been reversed or vacated, which further indicates to me a tendency to legislate from the bench." Most notorious was the Supreme Court's reversal of Ricci v. DeStefano. In one of her most notable decisions as an appellate judge, she sided with the city of New Haven, Conn., in the discrimination case brought by white firefighters in 2008.
If Bennett's intent is to re-establish his conservative credentials with his constituents, it may not succeed. Many commenters to the Deseret News story see through his intent.
In addition, a Salt Lake Tribune poll indicates 60 percent of respondents actually support Sotomayor's nomination to one degree or another. As of this post, the poll, which appears on their News Page, shows the following result from 1,143 respondents:
Should Sonia Sotomayor be the next Supreme Court justice?
-- (Absolute) No. She's a liberal whose views are outside the nation's mainstream: 9.536 percent.
-- (Conditional) No. Her writings and decisions show that she is an activist judge: 29.13 percent.
-- (Conditional) Yes. She may not be my first choice, but she is the choice of our democratically elected president and she has the credentials: 12.42 percent.
-- (Absolute) Yes. She is a skilled jurist whose life experiences make her a welcome addition to the court: 48.90 percent.
I voted a conditional No; my primary concern is that she will legislate from the bench. My concept of the judiciary is that it should function as an umpire, simply calling balls and strikes. I also think she believes in racial discrimination. Unfortunately, it looks like Sotomayor will be confirmed, since at least three Republican senators, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Mel Martinez of Florida intend to vote for her, but it doesn't make it a wise decision.