Sotomayor Supporters Take to the Grass Roots
Supporters of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor fanned out across the country last week, organizing local rallies and other events to tout her law and order credentials and build grass-roots momentum for her impending confirmation.
Although Democrats in Washington said the Obama administration is not directly involved in the campaign, the events could help Senate Democrats blunt some of the criticism of Sotomayor by conservative groups and Republican Senators.
Republicans have mounted a vigorous offensive against the Supreme Court hopeful in the last two weeks, increasingly focusing their attacks on her work with a controversial Puerto Rican civil rights organization in the 1980s and rulings on affirmative action and gun rights cases while serving on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
The White House and Senate Democrats have pushed back, spending much of the early part of last week tamping down fires after the Supreme Court rejected an affirmative action ruling that Sotomayor was involved in as part of the lower court.
But her backers in the Senate are keen to keep the focus on her education and résumé rather than the hot-button social issues that, at least in the past, have proven problematic.
Over the past week, Sotomayor’s backers have held a series of local rallies in Arizona, Texas and Georgia. Locally elected and law enforcement officials have also participated in the events — members of a host of national law enforcement organizations including the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Latino Peace Officers Association and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Organizers said the individuals and groups involved have coordinated their rallies as a way to highlight the law enforcement community’s support for Sotomayor and to make the case that her experience as a lawyer and a jurist should be used to measure her fitness for the high court.
“I think a lot of law enforcement folks are excited about having someone on the Supreme Court that’s been on the front lines,— said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who is also the president of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
Acevedo said he and other local officials in Austin decided to hold a rally Thursday to “show support for the nomination and to encourage our state’s Senators to move forward with this nomination.—
Acevedo acknowledged that the state’s two Republican Senators — Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, a Judiciary Committee member — are not expected to vote for her nomination. But he said in the wake of attacks on Sotomayor’s work with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, he and others felt the need to stand up. “I’m not going to tell anyone how to vote. … [But] I think they need to know that the law enforcement community is very much in support of her nomination.—
Acevedo also said that law enforcement officials will continue to make their case over the next several weeks, including at an event this week in Washington with Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
Senate Republicans are expected to continue to press the administration and PRLDEF officials to turn over hundreds of boxes of documents relating to Sotomayor’s work with the group. As one of the organization leaders in the 1980s, Sotomayor was involved in developing the group’s positions on a host of high-profile issues, including its opposition to the death penalty and to former President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
Although the PRLDEF turned over several hundred pages of documents to the committee Tuesday, Republicans said they want access to all materials.
With less than a week before Sotomayor’s hearings begin on July 13, Republicans this week could ramp up their demands for a delay in the hearings. At press time, Senate Republicans said it remained unclear whether Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would try to force a delay — or if they would try to use parliamentary tactics to force Democrats to postpone the hearings.
But with the amount of information that continues to come out about her work with PRLDEF — and the thousands of pages Republicans have yet to receive — aides said it was increasingly likely some sort of showdown could occur over the timing of the hearings.
Sessions on Thursday harshly criticized both PRLDEF and the White House, which has sought to defend the organization’s delays in reviewing its records.
“PRLDEF has reviewed only 3 of more than 300 boxes of materials, and from that we have received only 300 pages of documents. This is unacceptable,— Sessions said. “Rather than simply defend PRLDEF, the White House should respect the Judiciary Committee’s important bipartisan request that these documents be delivered to the Committee in a timely manner so they can be reviewed before Judge Sotomayor’s hearing, which is now just five legislative days away.—