DFL Senator Amy Klobuchar plans to focus on Sonia Sotomayor's time as a prosecutor and her criminal justice opinions, as confirmation hearings begin today in the historic Supreme Court nomination.
"I think the fact that she had those five years experience on the front line really makes a difference and we need more of that practical experience on the court," Klobuchar said on MPR's Morning Edition.
In preparation for the hearings, Klobuchar said she recently had an opportunity meet with Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter, for about an hour. She's also studied some of Sotomayor's opinions and met with a group of Minnesota lawyers, including two former U.S. Supreme Court clerks.
Both Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken sit on the Senate Judiciary committee and will have chances to questions Judge Sotomayor in the coming days.
"I think that there's going to be some really tough questions of her, and there should be," Klobuchar said. "This is a lifetime job, it is the highest court in the land, and so you're going to hear a lot of questions about individual cases that she's decided."
Klobuchar said some of those questions will center on race and ethnicity, focusing on Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment and the white firefighters from New Haven, Conn., who won their Supreme Court case last month.
In a speech in 2001, Sotomayor said she hoped a "wise Latina" often would reach better conclusions than a white male without the same life experience.
"She was simply talking about her own life experiences and how important they are to her," Klobuchar said. "She is not someone who is going out of her way to try to make policy through the courts. She actually is a judicial moderate."
In the second case, by a 5-4 vote last month, the high court agreed with the firefighters, who claimed they were denied promotions on account of their race after New Haven officials threw out test results because too few minorities did well. The court reversed a decision by Sotomayor and two other federal appeals court judges.
As for whether she'll vote to confirm Sotomayor, Klobuchar said: "It's certainly looking that way. I've been very impressed so far."