Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

Senate confirms Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

The Senate votes 68 to 31 to confirm Sotomayor, who will be the first Latino and third woman ever on the nation’s highest court. Nine Republicans cross party line to support her confirmation.
By James Oliphant and David G. Savage
Los Angeles Times (August 6, 2009)

Reporting from Washington – Sonia Sotomayor completed an unlikely and historic journey today, one that began with her birth in a Bronx, New York, housing project 55 years ago and culminated in her confirmation as the Supreme Court’s 111th justice.

When she is sworn into office, Sotomayor will take her place as the high court’s first Latino and just its third woman. She was approved by a 68-31 Senate vote after three days of debate. Nine Republicans crossed party lines to support her.

Sotomayor was nominated in May by President Obama to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter. A judge on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for the last 11 years, Sotomayor worked her way through two Ivy League schools and was a Manhattan prosecutor and corporate lawyer before joining the federal bench.

But the pride felt by Latino groups over her historic nomination quickly gave way to a firestorm, as critics seized upon a speech Sotomayor gave to a group of students in 2001. Sotomayor suggested that her life experience as a Latina shaped her judging, and her remarks became known, almost notoriously, as the “wise Latina” speech.

Sotomayor’s opponents charged that the speech and some of her decisions on the bench showed an inclination to use the law to favor disadvantaged minority groups. And they pointed to one case in particular — in which Sotomayor’s appellate court panel threw out a discrimination suit brought by white firefighters in New Haven, Conn. — as evidence of their claim.

But the controversy never appeared to seriously threaten her nomination.

With Democrats in control of the Senate, there was little possibility of a Republican-led filibuster. And Sotomayor’s supporters pointed to thousands of opinions in her long judicial career, few if any of which showed the sort of liberal-leaning that her detractors alleged existed.

Over three long days of confirmation hearings, Sotomayor pledged “fidelity to the law” and rejected the “empathy standard” that Obama invoked when the Supreme Court vacancy arose. The president had said that justices need to sometimes utilize empathy to understand the effect the court’s decisions have on the lives of ordinary Americans. But Sotomayor broke with Obama over that notion, a moment her conservative critics said was particularly significant.

Still, most Republicans weren’t mollified — and during this week’s debate, they said they doubted Sotomayor’s ability to remain impartial on the bench.

“This is a question of the true role of the judge. It is a question of whether a judge follows the law as it is written or how they wish it should be,” Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said shortly before today’s vote.

But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the committee that oversaw Sotomayor’s nomination, said on the Senate floor that the judge had answered her critics and proved her suitability for the court. He called on Republicans to support the nominee to honor “our national promise.”

“Judge Sotomayor’s career and judicial record demonstrates that she has always followed the rule of law,” Leahy said. “Attempts at distorting that record by suggesting that her ethnicity or heritage will be the driving force in her decisions as a justice of the Supreme Court are demeaning to women and all communities of color.”

THE PROBLEM WITH “WAR” RAGES ON

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Will the FCC make an issue of ‘War’ language?

Two months before the premiere of Ken Burns’ series,

“The War,” PBS CEO Paula Kerger still isn’t sure
By Ellen Gray

Philadelphia Daily News (July 12, 2007)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif – Though Kerger yesterday told the Television Critics Association that PBS would offer its affiliates unexpurgated and edited versions of the World War II series, she said she doesn’t know yet how many stations would carry the edited version.

“I thought . . . that there would be more clarity” from the Federal Communications Commission by now about the use of certain language on broadcast TV (specifically, a word that’s already gotten a pass during airings of “Saving Private Ryan” from an FCC whose makeup – and agenda – has changed since then).

“We got a lot of coverage of this documentary because it has four words in it – four out of 14 1/2 hours,” she said, noting that two of those are used to explain the origins of “snafu” and “FUBAR.”

Though the issue drew headlines at the TCA’s winter meetings six months ago and still matters to many PBS affiliates, some of which could be crippled by an adverse FCC ruling and the accompanying fines, “that seems like the quaint old days,” the PBS executive acknowledged.

That’s because of pressure brought in the interim by Hispanic groups who were upset that Burns had not singled out the experience of Latino soldiers in his examination of World War II from the perspective of four American cities and towns: Sacramento, Calif; Waterbury, Conn; Mobile, Ala.; and Luverne, Minn.

In questioning Kerger, and later Burns, critics and reporters here, usually quick to lambaste networks on diversity issues, displayed little sympathy for the groups raising this particular one.

Admittedly, none of us – and none of Burns’ critics – has yet seen the final version of “The War,” which will incorporate some interviews and material he agreed to add at what in documentary terms could be considered the 11th hour.

Kerger was a bit vague on just what’s entailed, Burns a little less so.

“We’ve produced some new material and included it at the end of three of the episodes that doesn’t alter” what was largely completed more than a year ago, he said.

The added material, which will also include a Native American narrative, will run at the ends of episodes 1, 5 and 6, before the credits, Burns said.

It will add 28 to 29 minutes to the total length.

“It was, of course, painful to us on one level” that his work was being misinterpreted, “but we didn’t have the luxury” of arguing for too long, Burns said, reminding reporters that World War II veterans are dying at the rate of about 1,000 a day.

Noting that Hispanics in America are “a group of people who for 500 years have had their story untold,” he said, “We’ve done more than we were asked and were expected to . . . honoring our own interest in doing this right.”

Asked if he expected that to be enough to satisfy his critics, he replied, “There are a lot of different people with a lot of different agendas and a lot of concerns.”

Rather than try to address all of them, he said, the filmmakers “tried to hear . . . the larger question, and that’s what we tried to respond to.”