The Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing for a history-making confirmation hearing for Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Another woman who once found herself before that same committee is sharing her views of the president's nominee.
Anita Hill testified in 1991 in front of the Senate confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas that he made harassing sexual statements to her as her supervisor. She is currently a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University.
Hill attended law school at the same time as Judge Sonia Sotomayor and supports her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. She spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday.
John Roberts: You were a year behind Judge Sotomayor at Yale University Law School. What qualifies her to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court?
Anita Hill: Well, if you look at her outstanding record on the bench, you can look at her outstanding academic record. She has a wide variety of professional experience before she got on to the bench. I think she's infinitely-qualified to be the nominee and we will see during the confirmation process how well she's qualified to actually receive the vote of the Senate.
Roberts: Much has been made of the fact that she's a Hispanic woman. How much do you think that plays in to the nomination, her choice, and her eventual confirmation? Is she the most qualified Hispanic judge to sit on the Supreme Court? Or is she the most qualified judge who happens to be Hispanic?
Hill: I think she's very well-qualified. You know…if you look at her record, if you look at all of the credentials she brings, including all of her background, her incredible life story, I think all of those add to her qualifications. I don't know if we want to talk about what is the most qualified person in the country. There are a lot of very talented people out there. But certainly no one could question that this woman is not highly-qualified.
Roberts: A lot has been made about temperament as well. And Judge Guido Calebresi, one of her colleagues on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, said when Judge Sotomayor first joined that court, he heard she was overly-aggressive. He started to keep track of her writings, comparing the substance and tone with questions of his own. He said the following, “I must say I found no difference at all…It was sexism in its most obvious form.” Your thoughts on that?
Hill: Well, it's amazing, isn't it? That we would be talking about a circuit court judge being too aggressive. After all, she's representing our best interests and we want to know what parties have to offer when they come before the court. I would actually think that an attorney coming before her would want to get questions and get hard questions about their case. I think they would give them a better indication of their chances of moving forward and prevailing in a lawsuit than a judge who asks them nothing.
Roberts: Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio took a different tactic when examining the question “Is Judge Sotomayor mean?” She said, “If Sonia Sotomayor sometimes dominates oral arguments at her court – if she is feisty, even pushy – then she should fit right in at the U.S. Supreme Court.” Do you think she could go toe-to-toe with justices like Scalia and Thomas?
Hill: Of course she can. This is a woman who has an amazing story. I think that's one of the reasons she's so qualified to be the nominee. She has not had an easy time in her life. And she carries that same kind of - well, maybe you would call it aggressiveness. But certainly I think it's probably served her well. I mean, she has had to be tough. She's had to be tenacious. And that will be what we'll want from her on the bench. We've got some tough questions coming up before the court. And we want someone who is going to be able to ask the attorneys the hard questions that everybody wants to know the answers to.
Roberts: We did a lot of looking around, professor, in the last couple of days, on opinions being voiced on the Internet. And there are a lot of liberals who think Judge Sotomayor is going to get the same kind of grilling that you got during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Do you think that will happen?
Hill: I hope it doesn't happen. This is what I hope we can avoid … A lot has been made about her being a racist. Names have been called. There's a lot that's been made about her being too aggressive. What I hope that the Judiciary Committee will do is focus on her record and not take this as an opportunity to have a witch hunt, looking for evidence that doesn't exist about her purported racism, you know to support these allegations. I think the people deserve more. You've got a large body of work out there that she has been involved in as a court of appeals judge. The people really want to know about her jurisprudence, her judicial philosophy, her work. And I think that’s what they deserve.