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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

 1:08 PM 

Kohl meets with advisory panel on Sotomayor nomination

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl said today that the Supreme Court's reversal of a discrimination decision that Sonia Sotomayor supported as an appeals court judge won't make much of a difference in whether she is confirmed to the high court.

In its decision Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court found that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were discriminated against when the department decided to not consider the results of a promotion exam because they would have produced too few minority candidates for promotion. Sotomayor was part of the majority at the appeals court level that ruled against the white firefighters.

"I don't think it makes much difference," Kohl said, noting that the ruling was 5-4 and if it were heard at another time it could have gone a different way depending upon who was on the court. "I would not say it's definitive in any way."

Kohl made his comments to reporters at Marquette Law School in Milwaukee following a meeting with a bi-partisan advisory panel that he created of Wisconsin legal experts and community leaders to advise him about Sotomayor's nomination. The meeting of the 11-member body was closed to the media.

Kohl said comments from the committee revealed Sotomayor is intelligent, collegial, and has a solid professional and personal background. He noted that she would be the only justice on the court who has tried a case as a lawyer.

Kohl, who is second in seniority among Dems on the Senate committee that will review her nomination, had words of praise for Sotomayor today. But he said he'd wait until after her nomination hearing to say whether he supports her appointment.

"What's come out is that this is a woman who has many qualifications to sit on the court," Kohl said. "If confirmed, there's no question about her competence and her character and her ability to see the law and understand the law. She has many things that advocate in her favor."

Kohl said committee members today voiced no "real strong questions about her suitability" and the input he received will be helpful to him in crafting questions for the nomination hearing.

"We're trying to get at the essence of who this person is," Kohl said. "One of the real problems at these hearings is that they've become so patterned and so practiced it's really difficult to find out who the real person is behind the individual who's sitting there."


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