"Lawyers who have argued cases before Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor call her 'nasty,' 'angry' and a 'terror on the bench,' according to the current Almanac of the Federal Judiciary -- a kind of Zagat's guide to federal judges," reports the Washington Times' Tom LoBianco.
"The withering evaluation of Judge Sotomayor's temperament stands in stark contrast to reviews of her peers on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Of the 21 judges evaluated, the same lawyers gave 18 positive to glowing reviews and two judges received mixed reviews. Judge Sotomayor was the only one to receive decidedly negative comments. Judge Sotomayor's demeanor on the bench will be one of the issues the Senate Judiciary Committee tackles when she appears for her confirmation hearing. A lack of a good temperament has been used as a line of attack against nominees in the past - most notably conservative Judge Robert H. Bork, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was defeated. But several lawyers and legal scholars on a call organized by the White House said the criticism is misplaced and that Judge Sotomayor's legal acumen is overwhelming."
The New York Times' Jo Becker and Adam Liptak add that Sotomayor, "has a blunt and even testy side, and it was on display in December during an argument before the federal appeals court in New York. The case concerned a Canadian man who said American officials had sent him to Syria to be tortured, and Judge Sotomayor peppered a government lawyer with skeptical questions. 'So the minute the executive raises the specter of foreign policy, national security,' Judge Sotomayor asked the lawyer, Jonathan F. Cohn, 'it is the government's position that that is a license to torture anyone?'
"Mr. Cohn managed to get out two and a half words: 'No, your hon—— .' Judge Sotomayor cut him off, then hit him with two more questions and a flat declaration of what she said was his position. The lawyer managed to say she was wrong, but could not clarify the point until the chief judge, Dennis G. Jacobs, stepped in, asking, 'Why don't we just get the position?'
"To supporters, Judge Sotomayor's vigorous questioning of the Bush administration's position in the case of the Canadian, Maher Arar, showcases some of her strengths. She is known as a formidably intelligent judge with a prodigious memory who meticulously prepares for oral arguments and is not shy about grilling the lawyers who appear before her to ensure that she fully understands their arguments.
"But to detractors, Judge Sotomayor's sharp-tongued and occasionally combative manner — some lawyers have described her as 'difficult' and 'nasty' — raises questions about her judicial temperament and willingness to listen. Her demeanor on the bench is an issue that conservatives opposed to her nomination see as a potential vulnerability — and one that Mr. Obama carefully considered before selecting her."
While Sessions called that statement "troubling", Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich called it "racist."
"Some Democrats and political analysts are urging the White House to shift course and concede that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made an error when she suggested in 2001 that Hispanic women would make better judges than white men," reports Politico's Josh Gerstein.
"'She misspoke,' said Lanny Davis, a White House lawyer and spokesman for President Bill Clinton. 'Every day that goes by that they don't say she misspoke and she used the wrong words ... they just feed it and give it life and give Rush [Limbaugh] and [Sean] Hannity more airtime unnecessarily.' Said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane: 'In this day and age, six or seven or eight weeks is a long time to go without addressing an issue that can potentially take on a life of its own and evolve and grow.'"
"'I think it's terrible. This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent,' Cornyn told NPR's 'All Things Considered.' The racism allegation - and efforts to pressure Sotomayor to withdraw from consideration for the court - stem from Sotomayor's remark that as a Latina, she would bring a superior perspective to some cases than a white male judge. Asked by NPR if he's worried that comments like Limbaugh and Gingrich's harm the confirmation debate, Cornyn said: 'Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials. I just don't think it's appropriate and I certainly don't endorse it. I think it's wrong.'"
"Asked Thursday whether Republicans should leave the filibuster option on the table, Romney didn't answer directly. But he did say the Senate should mimic Supreme Court nominations under President George W. Bush," reports The Hill's Aaron Blake.
"Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) tried to get Democratic support for a filibuster of Samuel Alito in 2006 but none was close to being mounted. Romney went on to suggest that no effort should be made to strip Republicans of the ability to filibuster. 'I think the process that was applied during the Bush administration should be the same process applied during the Obama administration,' Romney said. 'I don't believe in the nuclear option on either side of the aisle.' The 'nuclear option' is an attempt to end a filibuster by majority vote, as opposed to the 60 votes usually needed to end a filibuster. In 2005, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) threatened to use it against Democrats blocking Bush's judicial nominations. Romney sounds as though he's saying that the filibuster should always be an option -- even for judicial nominations, which have avoided such procedural meddling in the past. Republicans have been measured in their public comments about Sotomayor, and there seems to be a hesitance to delve into the prospect of a filibuster, including on behalf of top Republicans like Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)."
BUSH & CLINTON: Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton meet for a $230-plus per ticket "conversation" at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this afternoon focusing on "challenges facing the world in the 21st century." Moderator: former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Frank McKenna.
"So why is the pair so appealing to a Toronto audience? Is it their celebrity appeal? Their wisdom?" asks Toronto Star columnist Bob Hepburn. "Whatever the reason, they can pack a hall, as Clinton has proven countless times before in Toronto. As for Bush, it will be his second speech in Canada since leaving the White House. The first was in March in Calgary. ... No one will say how much the two ex-presidents will be paid for tomorrow's event, but Bush reportedly received $160,000 (U.S.) for his Calgary appearance."
Yesterday, Mr. Bush spoke to the Economic Club of Southern Michigan in Benton Harbor and, the Detroit Free Press' Chris Christoff reports, he "defended his decision to allow harsh interrogation of a terror suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., saying it was cleared by his lawyers to prevent what his advisors believed was another, imminent attack."
"'I made a decision within the law to get information so I can say, I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people,' he said. 'I can tell you, the information gained saved lives.' ... He said the overthrow of Iraq president Saddam Hussein will someday be seen as the spark that established democracy in the Middle East, and that 'people will say, 'Thank God they never lost faith.' ... And he said although he has opinions, he will not criticize or advise President Barack Obama. 'There are plenty of people who will wade in, trust me, having seen it first hand,' he told a crowd of 1,500."
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SCHEDULE: With hurricane season beginning Monday, President Obama will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA this afternoon.
This morning, Mr. Obama will talk about how the government plans to deal with the threat of cyber attacks. "President Obama on Friday is expected to unveil his administration's plans to deal with cybersecurity threats to federal agencies and the private sector, including the creation of a White House 'cyber czar,'" reports CBSNews.com's Declan McCullagh.
"It's not yet clear who that person will be, or even whether Mr. Obama will name someone during his announcement. The new position is expected to be folded into, as part of a political compromise, both the National Security Council and National Economic Council. The announcement, which will take place at 10:55 a.m. ET in the White House's East Room, caps years of criticism of the Department of Homeland Security's efforts and months of speculation about what form the replacement cybersecurity bureaucracy will take. ... No bureaucratic mandate will satisfy everyone: Security hawks would like the 'czar' to have authority -- which may mean new laws -- to direct both federal agencies and private businesses on cybersecurity matters. Business representatives, on the other hand, like the potential for increased high-level attention but remain wary of mandates from Washington."
***CBSNEWS.COM'S "WASHINGTON UNPLUGGED": Moderator Bob Schieffer talks to Liz Cheney, Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice, Cleta Mitchell from the Republican Lawyers Association and John McCaslin, author of "Weed Man." Watch it today at 2pm ET.
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