Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, one of the top Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, today said he would not vote for President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. The decision is a surprising blow to Sotomayor as Hatch not only voted for the last 12 nominees to the bench — Republican or Democrat — but he also twice voted to confirm Sotomayor to the federal bench. From Hatch’s statement:
“Arriving at a final decision was particularly difficult because I like and highly respect Judge Sotomayor and, in general, give a great deal of deference to any President’s nominee. The prospect of a woman of Puerto Rican heritage serving on the Supreme Court brought great excitement to me and says a lot about America.
“However, after thoroughly reviewing Judge Sotomayor’s record and being able to hear her testimony and responses during the hearing process, I reluctantly, and with a heavy heart, have found that I cannot support her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. In truth, I wish President Obama had chosen a Hispanic nominee that all Senators could support. I believe it would have done a great deal for our great country. Although Judge Sotomayor has a compelling life story and dedication to public service, her statements and record were too much at odds with the principles about the judiciary in which I deeply believe.
“As I said during the hearing, some of Judge Sotomayor’s critics have been intemperate and unfair. No nominee deserves that kind of treatment. I was grateful her confirmation hearing was both dignified and thorough, as they all should be. I was particularly pleased that Judge Sotomayor felt her hearing was as gracious and fair as she could have asked for
“During my analysis, I focused on her record and applied standards and principles that define the kind of judge all Americans need. Qualifications for judicial service include not only legal experience but, more importantly, a nominee’s approach to judging. This makes Judge Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy more important than her stellar resume. I thoroughly examined her record with the more exacting focus appropriate for a Supreme Court nomination. This included reading and studying Judge Sotomayor’s speeches, articles, and cases; meeting with and hearing from legal experts and advocates from different perspectives; and actively participating in the confirmation hearing.
“The duty of confirmation entrusted to all Senators requires we determine whether Judge Sotomayor has the legal experience and, more importantly, the judicial philosophy that properly equips her for service on the Supreme Court. I have done my best to leave politics aside and stay true to this standard during all twelve Supreme Court confirmations I have participated in. It saddens me to realize that after reviewing her record, I have reluctantly concluded that I cannot vote in favor of her confirmation.
Hatch’s decision is important as it will surely sway his colleagues and could mean the difference between a Judge Roberts-like tally for Sotomayor — 78 votes with 22 Dems voting for him — or a Judge Alito-like confirmation, 58 votes with just four Democrats voting for him. Thus far five Republicans have announced their support for Sotomayor.