Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Reform Movement Recommends Questions for Sotomayor Hearing

Speaker: “We believe that any person receiving a lifetime appointment to the highest Court in our nation must go through a comprehensive hearings process . . . We hope that you will consider the questions posed by our members . . . as you formulate your own questions for the hearings.”

Contact: Sean Thibault or Jessica Weiser
202.387.2800 |

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 10, 2009 – In anticipation of the upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent the following letter to the members of the Committee:

Dear Senator:

As you are, of course, well aware, next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin the crucial process of conducting hearings on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve as United States Supreme Court Justice. 

While the Union for Reform Judaism has not taken a formal position on Judge Sotomayor’s nomination in advance of the hearings, we are mindful that so many of the issues that we care about -- from the separation of church and state to reproductive rights, from civil rights to the environment -- are impacted by decisions of the nine Justices that serve on the United States Supreme Court.  Thus, we believe that any person receiving a lifetime appointment to the highest Court in our nation must go through a comprehensive hearings process.  Such a process requires genuine, thorough and tough questioning that sheds light on the nominee’s temperament, constitutional beliefs, and judicial philosophies. 

The Union for Reform Judaism represents over 900 congregations, which encompass nearly 1.5 million Reform Jews.  In order to best gauge our members’ concerns, we developed a web-based program, “Ask Judge Sotomayor,” which allowed Reform Jews and others from across the United States to write in with questions they want Judge Sotomayor to answer during the hearings.  We are now forwarding the most compelling of their questions on to you, as well as some questions developed by our professional staff. 

We hope that you will consider the questions posed by our members -- or variations thereof, which address the same topics -- as you formulate your own questions for the hearings.  We look forward to productive hearings and stand ready to assist you in preparing questions in any way that we can.


/s/                                             /s/
Rabbi David Saperstein                  Jessica Weiser
Director and Counsel                     Program Associate for Judicial Nominations




·        Do you agree with the decision in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation that taxpayers do not have standing to challenge Executive Branch funding of religious institutions?  Does the Establishment Clause allow for direct funding of any sort of religious activity?  Indirect funding?

·        Based on your understanding of the Establishment Clause, does the First  Amendment permit federal, state or local governments to display  religious monuments and symbols --such as Christian crosses, Ten  Commandments monuments and plaques, menorahs, nativity scenes, etc.-- in  a non-museum or non-library setting?**

·        How does your religious background affect your approach to cases that come before you?

·        Do you believe that certain rights exist that are not directly enumerated in the Constitution?  How would you go about “finding” them?

·        Do states have a right to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman?  What should be the Federal role concerning marriage?

·        Was the Defense of Marriage Act a proper exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause power?**

·        Do you think there should be a different level of constitutional scrutiny for laws that restrict sexual freedoms (e.g., sodomy laws) than for laws that restrict economic freedoms (e.g., limits on executive compensation)?  If so, why? **

·        Is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act still necessary?  Is it Constitutional?

·        Do you agree with the Roper v. Simmons decision that the death penalty for individuals who have committed crimes before the age of 18 is cruel and unusual punishment?  In what other circumstances could the death penalty be considered cruel and unusual punishment?

·        Do you agree with the Boumediene v. Bush decision that enemy combatants held at Guantanamo bay have a right to habeas corpus? Under what circumstances would you expand the holding in Boumediene to grant habeas corpus to other combatants imprisoned or incarcerated by U.S. military forces?  Would it make any difference if they were citizens or non-citizens?

·        Which government agencies have the power to enforce the Clean Water Act and other environmental legislation?

·        Under what circumstances do you affirm the right of a woman to choose not to have a baby?**

·        Do you believe that the Americans with Disabilities Act was a legitimate exercise of Congress's power to remediate discrimination against people with disabilities?**

·        Please discuss your consensus-building abilities.  How, as a Supreme Court justice, would you go about working with your colleagues to gain support for your views?**

** Note:  Starred questions were submitted by members of the Reform Jewish community, largely through the online question bank, <>.

For more information: Jessica Weiser, Program Associate.  202-387-2800.

All Content © Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism