The cast of the Sotomayor hearings

Which senators and witnesses are playing which parts in the Supreme Court confirmation? Find out here


Gabriel Winant
July 14, 2009 5:30PM (UTC)

We all know that American politics has more than its fair share of stagecraft. But a judicial confirmation hearing, especially of a Supreme Court nominee, ratchets up the artifice an extra few notches. Everyone at the hearing is an actor, putting on a show with a too-familiar script. Which is, of course, why the whole thing can sometimes verge on farce.

Who are the dramatis personae in the confirmation hearing for Judge Sonia Sotomayor? There are the senators on the Judiciary Committee, and then there are the witnesses. Both groups break down by party. And if you can't tell the players without a program, ours is below.

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The Democrats

  • Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy: Veteran senator, committee chairman will try to keep the room friendly to Sotomayor.
  • Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl: This quiet multimillionaire rarely causes any fireworks.
  • California Sen. Dianne Feinstein: Will likely repress any conservative leanings on judicial issues to help shepherd through the first Latina nominee.
  • Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold: Expect the Senate’s leading civil libertarian to press Sotomayor for her positions on executive power, surveillance and detention.
  • New York Sen. Chuck Schumer: Introduced Sotomayor; will be fighting hard for her.
  • Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin: As Senate majority whip, Durbin wants to help smooth the path for Sotomayor.
  • Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin: A wonkish liberal, he won’t get in Sotomayor’s way.
  • Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: Formerly his state's attorney general, he has a reputation as an aggressive questioner -- a skill he’ll probably apply more to Sotomayor’s critics.
  • Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Has stuck up for Sotomayor’s credentials against conservative attacks.
  • Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman: Appointed to keep Joe Biden’s seat warm for the vice-president’s son, Kaufman is the White House’s man.
  • Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter: Former Judiciary chairman; helped kill Robert Bork and save Clarence Thomas, is now a junior Democrat. That means he’ll probably try to repress some of his well-known critical instincts.
  • Minnesota Sen. Al Franken: Finally in office, Franken is surely eager to show he can perform as well as any other senator.

The Republicans

  • Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions: Once rejected over racial insensitivity for a judgeship by the committee where he now ranks, he thinks Sotomayor is the racial extremist.
  • Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch: Formerly the committee chairman, Hatch recommended Justices Ginsburg and Breyer to President Clinton as nominees he could support.
  • Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley: Sensible by current Republican standards, but still a solid conservative.
  • Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl: Has a reputation on the right as a solid, low-key advocate for conservative issues.
  • South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham: Has entertained the idea of voting for Sotomayor, but still wants an apology for her "wise Latina" comment.
  • Texas Sen. John Cornyn: The chief electoral strategist for the Senate Republicans, Cornyn might use this chance to make a show and raise some money for the party.
  • Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn: Possibly the most conservative senator, Coburn has said that the chances of his voting for Sotomayor "are not high."

American Bar Association witnesses

  • Kim Askew: Chair of ABA Standing Committee.
  • Mary Boies: ABA’s primary reviewer. Her review gave Sotomayor ABA’s highest rating, "well-qualified."

Majority witnesses

  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: A big Sotomayor fan, and is lending his nonpartisan credibility -- presumably to court Latino votes for his reelection.
  • Chuck Canterbury: President of the Fraternal Order of Police.
  • David Cone: Former all-star pitcher; with the Kansas City Royals at the time of the baseball strike ended by Sotomayor’s ruling.
  • JoAnne Epps: Dean of Temple University’s law school, testifying on behalf of the National Association of Women Lawyers.
  • Louis Freeh: Former director of the FBI.
  • Michael J. Garcia: Former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
  • Wade Henderson: President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
  • Patricia Hynes: President of the New York City Bar Association.
  • Dustin McDaniel: Arkansas’ attorney general.
  • New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau: Sotomayor’s old boss.
  • Ramona Romero: President of the Hispanic Bar Association
  • Rep. Jose E. Serrano: Representative from New York’s 16th District
  • Theodore M. Shaw: Law professor at Columbia University, where Sotomayor has lectured.
  • Kate Stith: Law professor at Yale University, Sotomayor’s alma mater.
  • Rep. Nydia Velázquez: Representative from New York’s 12th District, and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Minority witnesses

  • Linda Chavez: Pesident of the Center for Equal Opportunity, an anti-affirmative action organization.
  • Sandy Froman: Former president of the NRA.
  • Dr. Stephen Halbrook: Conservative legal intellectual.
  • Tim Jeffries: Funder of P7 Enterprises, a management consulting firm.
  • Peter Kirsanow: Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
  • David Kopel: Prominent lawyer with eclectic, libertarian views.
  • John McGinnis: Law professor at Northwestern University.
  • Neomi Rao: Law professor at George Mason University.
  • Frank Ricci: Connecticut fireman, and the plaintiff in affirmative action case Ricci v. DeStefano, on which Sotomayor made her most famous ruling.
  • David Rivkin: Partner at the firm Baker Hostetler, and a defender of Bush administration interrogation policies.
  • Nick Rosenkranz: Law professor at Georgetown University.
  • Ilya Somin: Law professor at George Mason University.
  • Ben Vargas: Lieutenant in the New Haven Fire Department, and a co-plaintiff in the Ricci case.
  • Charmaine Yoest: President of Americans United for Life.

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

MORE FROM Gabriel Winant


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