SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I have great respect for Senator Kyl. I've worked with him, I guess, for about 12 years now on the subcommittee of this committee. But I think there is a fundamental misreading of the Supreme Court decision, if I understand it.
It's my understanding that the court was five-to-four. Is that correct?
SONIA SOTOMAYOR: It was.
FEINSTEIN: And that the four dissenters indicated that they would have reached the same conclusion as the 2nd Circuit did. Is that correct?
SOTOMAYOR: That was my understanding.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you. Let me clear one thing up. I'm not a lawyer. And I've had a lot of people ask me, particularly from the West Coast who are watching this, what is per curiam. Would you please in common, every day English explain what through the court means?
SOTOMAYOR: It's essentially a unanimous opinion where the court is taking an act that -- where it's not saying more than what either incorporating a decision by the court below because it's not adding anything to it.
SOTOMAYOR: In some cases, it's when there's, as Judge Cabranes in his dissent pointed out, in some cases, it's simply used to denote that an issue is so clear and unambiguous that we're just going to state the rule of law. It can be used in a variety of different ways. But it's generally where some -- where you're doing something fairly -- in a very cursory fashion, either because a district court judge has done a thorough job...
. . .
FEINSTEIN: . . .
Now, many have made comments regarding your Latina -- "wise Latina" comment. And I'd like to just take a moment to put your comments in the context of the experiences of women. And this country is built on very great accomplishments. We forged a new country. We broke away from the British. We wrote documents that have stood the test of time. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.
But we also have a history of slavery, segregated schools, of employment discrimination, of hate crimes, and unspoken prejudices that can make it very hard for individuals to be treated fairly or even to believe that they can do well in this society.
So I understand empowerment and the role that it plays. And everything has been hard fought. We, as women, didn't have the right to vote until 1920. And that was after a tremendous battle waged by a group of very brave women called suffragettes. And when you graduated law school in 1979, there had never been a woman on the Supreme Court.
Today, women represent 50.7 percent of the population, 47 percent of law school graduates, and 30 percent of American lawyers. But there are only 17 women senators, and only one woman is currently serving on the Supreme Court, and we still make only $0.78 on the dollar that a man makes.
So we're making progress, but we're not there yet, and we should not lose sight of that. My question is, as you have seen this -- and you must have seen how widely broadcast this is -- that you become an instant role model for women. And how do you look at this -- your appointment to the court -- affecting empowerment for women? And I'd be very interested in any comments you might make. And this has nothing to do with the law.