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Sessions blasts court 'empathy standard'

June 6, 2009 at 4:05 PM

WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) -- Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., says that while he is impressed by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, he's worried about her impartiality.

Sessions, speaking Saturday in the Republican Party's weekly radio address, said that President Barack Obama's decision to include whether Supreme Court candidates can put themselves into the shoes of petitioners -- the "empathy standard" -- as a criteria would undermine the "great tradition" of a neutral and independent judiciary, the Washington publication The Hill reported.

"With this view -- that a judge should use his or her personal feelings about a particular group or issues to decide a case -- it stands in stark contrast to the impartiality that we expect in the American courtroom," Sessions said. "If a judge is allowed to let his or her feelings for one party in the case sway his decision, hasn't that judge then demonstrated a bias against the other party?"

Obama said during his presidential campaign that judges should have "the empathy to recognize what it's like to be a young, teenaged mom, the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old," The Hill reported.

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