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University of Iowa News Release


July 20, 2009

Law professors explain Sotomayor hearings to the public in two online forums

Two members of the University of Iowa College of Law faculty helped the public better understand last week's Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor by participating in a pair of online discussions.

Professor Margaret Raymond explained the hearings as a member of an online roundtable discussion for Forbes magazine, while professor Todd Pettys offered his ongoing commentary as a participant in a blog on the Des Moines Register's Web site.

Raymond's roundtable was posted on Forbes' Web site on Friday. Among her comments, Raymond said the judge handled herself well in often awkward questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"She's been well-spoken, clear and very judicial," she wrote. "These days, these proceedings largely involve the senators trying to get the nominee to comment on issues which are likely to come before the court and on which commentary would therefore be inappropriate. The nominees have to be gracious while steadfastly avoiding committing themselves to any particular position on those issues. Judge Sotomayor has handled that balance very effectively."

Her roundtable partners included Kevin Johnson, professor and dean of the law school at the University of California-Davis, and Karen O'Connor, the founder and director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Pettys blogged for the Des Moines Register with Mark Kende, professor of law at Drake University, and Rox Laird, an editorial writer for the Register. The three bloggers combined to make 86 posts about the hearings. Pettys agreed with Raymond that Sotomayor had a strong performance.

"If her judicial record were substantially shorter, her nomination likely would be in greater doubt (and, indeed, she might never have been nominated in the first place)," he wrote in his final post. "...(C)ritics would be on stronger ground when arguing that her speeches suggest she'll somehow be biased in certain kinds of cases. But her long, largely controversy-free judicial record appears to have given her the cushion she needs to become the nation's ninth Supreme Court Justice."

Raymond's roundtable discussion can be found online at

Petty's blog comments for the Register can be found online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

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