President Barack Obama's nomination of U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court provides Senate Republicans an opportunity to argue for the rule of law and demonstrate class and decorum.

The symbol of lady justice with the blindfold and balanced scales communicates the role of a judge: unbiased, fair, balanced. But Obama said he believes a judge should show empathy. In other words, he wants a judge who will peak from beneath the blindfold or tip the scales based on their personal values and experiences.

There is some evidence to suggest Sotomayor fits this description of a judge.

In a speech titled "A Latina Judge's Voice" delivered at the University of California Berkeley in 2001, and published in the Spring 2002 issue of "Berkeley La Raza Law Journal," Sotomayor says she agrees that "judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law" but she wonders "whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases."

Sotomayor confronts this impossibility of fairness saying, "The aspiration to impartiality is just that-it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others....our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases....I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First...there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Sotomayor says, "Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see."

For Sotomayor: justice is not blind; justice is Latina.

At a panel before Duke University Law School in 2005, Sotomayor made another troubling statement and dismissed concerns with a laugh and a head shake. "All of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is, Court of Appeals is where policy is made." She then offered a qualification in a patronizing apologetic tone as the audience laughed, "And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don't 'make law,' I know. Okay, I know. I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it. I'm, you know. Having said that, the Court of Appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating. Its interpretation, its application."

If Sotomayor believes a justice should drop the scales and pick up the legislative pen and make policy, then Republicans and Democrats alike should oppose her encroachment across the separation of powers and her disregard for the rule of law.

I doubt any Democrats will do so, and I hope Republicans will do so properly.

I would be embarrassed if during her questioning, Republicans dragged Sotomayor through the dirt and treated her like Democrats treated Samuel Alito, whom President George W. Bush nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Following Senator Ted Kennedy's (D-Mass) interrogation and accusations against him, Alito's wife had to leave the room in tears.

I would be agitated if Republicans mounted a process fight, attempting to bottle her in committee or filibuster her on the Senate floor like the Democrats did to Miguel Estrada, whom Bush nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Constitution gives the President the power by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate to appoint federal judges. As a nominee, she should have a hearing and she should have a vote. If Republicans want time to debate, they should exercise those prerogatives, but not abuse them to obstruct her nomination.

I would be frustrated if Republican Senators accused her of racism, like Democratic Senators did to Charles Pickering, whom Bush appointed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Some Democrats were "kinder" just saying that Pickering was "racially insensitive." Certainly had Pickering said a white man could usually make a better decision than a Latina woman, he would have been castigated by vitriolic Democrats. I hope Republicans show more class.

Republicans should treat Sotomayor with dignity in the committee, give her an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, and refrain from character assassinations. If they do conclude she will not rule according to the word and intent of the Constitution, they should vote against her.

Republicans may not be able to prevent Sotomayor's confirmation, but they can demonstrate in the process a more respectful and responsible way of conducting the Senate than their Democratic colleagues.

Brian Perry, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at