Our democracy, our rights, and everything we hold dear about America are built on the foundation of our Constitution. For more than 200 years, the court has interpreted the meaning of the Constitution and in so doing guaranteed our most cherished rights: the right to education regardless of race; the right to an attorney and a fair trial for the accused; the right to personal privacy; the right to speak, vote and worship without interference from the government.
Should you be confirmed, you and your colleagues will decide the future scope of our rights and the breadth of our freedoms. Your decisions will shape the fabric of American society for many years to come. And that is why it is so important that, over the course of the next few days, we gain a good understanding of what is in your heart and in your mind.
We don't have a right to know in advance how you will rule on cases which will come before you, but we need and we deserve to know what you think about fundamental issues such as civil rights, privacy, property rights, the separation of church and state, and civil liberties, just to name a few. Some believe that the confirmation process has become thoroughly scripted and that nominees are far too careful in cloaking their answers to important questions and generalities and with caveats about future cases. I recognize this concern, but I also hope that you'll recognize our need to have a frank discussion about these important issues."
from Senator Herb Kohl's opening statement.
Sonia Sotomayor is replacing a liberal so the cultural conservatives really have no reason to oppose her nomination. (She can't be any worse than Justice David Souter). Liberals however, have to worry since she is replacing one of their own and her record on these issues is sparse.
We need to know whether she believes in (a) the separation of church and state or the democratically-justified religious favoritism adopted by conservatives, (b) a broad right to privacy with the expectation that the government must justify every intrusion or the curtailing of such rights, an expansive view towards the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause or a narrower view that rationalizes prejudice and (d) an individual right to bare arms or a state-controlled militia's right to bear arms.