WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that her favorable opinion of Sonia Sotomayor’s experience and qualifications has been reinforced after meeting with President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court today.
“I am very positive about her credentials,” Klobuchar, a Democrat, said in an interview with MinnPost after their meeting.
Klobuchar described Sotomayor as “an engaging and energetic warm person,” who, like the senator, said she enjoys bicycling, and, more importantly, respects legal precedent — a perennial issue when it comes to Supreme Court nominees and explosive issues like abortion.
“We talked a lot about her view of how important it is to respect precedent and apply the law to the facts,” Klobuchar said. “She talked about how she writes her opinions in a very set way where she gives a brief summary of the facts and then talks about how the law applies in a certain case.”
Sotomayor has come under criticism for indicating, if only in jest, that a “court of appeals is where policy is made,”and for a comment in which she said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
On the former issue, Klobuchar said that she felt her discussion with Sotomayor on applying the law to the facts satisfied any concerns over speculation that Sotomayor might try to legislate from the bench.
Klobuchar had previously dismissed this comment as a joke made during a speech at a law school.
On the latter comment, Klobuchar said that Sotomayor said she could “understand how people would interpret it in the wrong way.”
Klobuchar said: “She didn’t mean it in that way. Basically, I think she would have used different wording. So she just talked about the fact that she understood why people interpreted that way and it was unfortunate.”
Klobuchar said that Sotomayor further explained that “she has always talked in her speeches about how important it is to maintain your own culture or an experience but also to basically integrate and understand other people and other cultures.”
“So, I thought her answers were good on that point,” Klobuchar said.
Both former prosecutors, Klobuchar said that their conversation also hit on the challenges and rewards of practicing law.
“She clearly enjoyed being a prosecutor,” said Klobuchar, adding. “We talked a lot about her time as a prosecutor and actually talked about what it was like being a prosecutor and how hard the decisions are sometimes when you know someone has committed a crime and you decide to go forward even though you may lose because there are problems with the facts.”
On the differences between being a lawyer and a judge, Klobuchar said that Sotomayor saw unique advantages in both.
“She touched on the differences a little bit,” said Klobuchar. “Where as a judge you have the power to make the final decision, but as a prosecutor you have a different kind of power at the beginning when deciding to bring a case or not.”
Klobuchar said that she had reserved most of her questions about specific cases for the hearings, but did touch on an opinion that Sotomayor joined this year, which said that the Second Amendment does not prevent state and local governments from restricting gun ownership.
In that case, Sotomayor explained that there was no precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court that would specifically apply, said Klobuchar.
Some gun-rights activists have strived to portray Sotomayor has being a liberal radical based on this decision.
And, on a less serious note, for those wondering about Sotomayor’s questionable decision to pack a parka on a trip to Minnesota last summer, Klobuchar said that the Supreme Court nominee still stands by her choice.
“She brought a parka in the middle of June,” Klobuchar said. “She still maintains that she had to bring a parka because it got cold one night.”