Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing As Semiotics Debate

Monday, July 13, 2009 at 12:56 pm

If you just started watching Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing during the statement of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), you might think you’d stumbled on a debate over semiotics rather than a Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

“I’m deeply concerned by your assertion that the law is uncertain,” said Coburn. “We want justice to be predictable. I’m worried that our Constitution may be seen to be malleable and evolving whereas I, as someone who comes from the heartland, believe, as do the people I represent in Oklahoma, that there is a foundational document and statutes and treaties that should be the rule rather than our opinions.”

Sotomayor’s statements that there exist “a series of perspectives” and that neutrality “will not allow escape from choice and judging” are disturbing, Coburn said.

“That implies that the law is not objective but subjective. Then all rulings are subjective and we lose the glue that binds us together.”

Of course, Coburn’s ideal of perfect predictability in the law that allows an escape from judgment and perspective would obviate the need for a Supreme Court — and today’s confirmation hearing.

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