DFL Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken -- who both sit on the Senate Judiciary committee -- made their opening remarks today at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
Klobuchar said she plans to focus her questions later this week on Sotomayor's time as a prosecutor and her criminal justice opinions.
"As we consider your nomination, we know that you are more than the sum of your professional experiences," Klobuchar said. "You bring one of the most wide-ranging legal resumes to this position--local prosecutor, civil litigator, trial judge and appellate judge."
Klobuchar praised Sotomayor as a Hispanic pioneer, and likened her to other judicial pioneers like Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice on the high court, and Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the court.
"Each of these very different justices grew up with their own, very different challenging circumstances," Klobuchar said.
Pres. Barack Obama named Sotomayor, 55 and a child of the South Bronx, to replace retiring Justice David Souter.
While Souter was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, he became a reliable member of the court's liberal faction.
If confirmed, Sotomayor is not expected to alter the court's balance on controversial issues such as abortion and affirmative action.
Sotomayor, who has served 17 years as a federal judge, including 11 on the appeals court, listened silently from her seat at the witness table a few feet away as the committee members made their introductory remarks.
Klobuchar told Sotomayor she'll want to know more about the nominee's time as a prosecutor in New York.
"When you're a prosecutor, the law ceases to be an abstract subject," Klobuchar said. "It's real and it has an impact on real people's lives--whether it's crime victims and their families, or defendants and their families, or the neighborhoods where people live."
Franken kept his comments brief saying he plans to focus his questions on judicial activism, particularly in the areas of voting rights, open access to the Internet, and campaign finance reform.
"I am weary of judicial activism and I believe in judicial restraint," Franken said. "Except under the most exceptional circumstances, the judicial branch is designed to show deep deference to the Congress and not make policy by itself."
Franken added: "We're going to have a lot more time together so I'm just going to start listening."