Questions Intensify in Sotomayor Hearings

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WASHINGTON -- Judge Sonia Sotomayor walked a fine line Tuesday between revealing too much and too little about how she would decide cases if she won confirmation to the Supreme Court.
    
She mostly stuck to her old standby.

"I believe that what the record shows is that I follow the law," she said. "It's a refrain that I keep repeating because that is my philosophy of judging -- applying the law to the facts at hand."

Is Judge Sonia Sotomayor dodging the real questions at hand? Click here for analysis on this with Colby May of the American Center for Law and Justice.
 
Democrats gave her a chance to answer allegations that she would allow personal biases sway her decisions on the bench.

"You've heard all these charges and counter charges 'the wise Latina' and on and on," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said. "Here's your chance: You tell us what's going on here, judge."

Sotomayor responded with her belief that no group will have favor.

"I want to state up front unequivocally and without doubt I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging," she said.

But Republicans wanted more assurances.

"You stated that your background affects the facts you choose to see," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said. "Was the fact that the New Haven firefighters had been subject to discrimination one of the facts you chose not to see?"

Sotomayor pointed out the handling of a similar case.

"No sir," she said. "In a very similar case, the Sixth Circuit approached a very similar issue in the same way."

She said her controversial comment about a "wise Latina" making better conclusions than a white male were directed to aspiring young, Hispanic legal professionals -- and ultimately an attempt at a play on words that "fell flat."

Sotomayor gave hints about where she will stand on some hot button issues.

On abortion, she called the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision settled precedent.

"The Court's decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey reaffirmed the court holding of Roe," she said. "That is the precedent in the Court and settled in terms of the holding of the Court."

On the right to bear arms, Sotomayor acknowledged that she would feel restrained to follow court precedent and affirm the right to own a gun for self-defense.
    
On affirmative action, she took a page directly from the playbook of former justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- but gave herself a little wiggle room.

"It is firmly my hope that in 25 years, race in our society won't be needed," she said. "But there are situations in which there are compelling state interests."

Sotomayor even got a chance to show deft diplomacy, refusing to answer which current Supreme Court justice she admires most.

"Each one of them brings integrity their sense of respect for the laws," she said.

While Democrats paint her as a careful jurist who is faithful to the law, conservatives fear Sotomayor is the first of other so-called "empathetic" Obama nominees who won't follow the law but legislate from the bench.
    
But with a commanding majority in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike believe Sotomayor will be confirmed to be the next Supreme Court Justice.

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