People have a right to privacy that people can determine what they want to do with their bodies with respect to abortion, but they apparently don't have the right to self-defense to protect your body. Here is a portion of the questioning
COBURN: Thank you.
Let me follow up with one other question. As a citizen of this country, do you believe innately in my ability to have self-defense of myself -- personal self-defense? Do I have a right to personal self- defense?
SOTOMAYOR: I'm trying to think if I remember a case where the Supreme Court has addressed that particular question. Is there a constitutional right to self-defense? And I can't think of one. I could be wrong, but I can't think of one.
SOTOMAYOR: Generally, as I understand, most criminal law statutes are passed by states. And I'm also trying to think if there's any federal law that includes a self-defense provision or not. I just can't.
What I was attempting to explain is that the issue of self- defense is usually defined in criminal statutes by the state's laws. And I would think, although I haven't studied the -- all of the state's laws, I'm intimately familiar with New York.
COBURN: But do you have an opinion, or can you give me your opinion, of whether or not in this country I personally, as an individual citizen, have a right to self-defense?
SOTOMAYOR: I -- as I said, I don't know.
COBURN: I'm talking about your...
SOTOMAYOR: I don't know if that legal question has been ever presented.
COBURN: I wasn't asking about the legal question. I'm asking about your personal opinion.
SOTOMAYOR: But that is sort of an abstract question with no particular meaning to me outside of...
COBURN: Well, I think that's what American people want to hear, Your Honor, is they want to know. Do they have a right to personal self-defense?
Do -- does the Second Amendment mean something under the 14th Amendment? Does what the Constitution -- how they take the Constitution, not how our bright legal minds but what they think is important, is it OK to defend yourself in your home if you're under attack?
In other words, the general theory is do I have that right? And I understand if you don't want to answer that because it might influence your position that you might have in a case, and that's a fine answer with me.
But I -- those are the kind of things people would like for us to answer and would like to know, not how you would rule or what you're going to rule, but -- and specifically what you think about, but just yes or no. Do we have that right? SOTOMAYOR: I know it's difficult to deal with someone as a -- like a judge who's so sort of -- whose thinking is so cornered by law.
COBURN: I know. It's hard.
SOTOMAYOR: Could I...
COBURN: Kind of like a doctor. I can't quit using doctor terms.
SOTOMAYOR: Exactly. That's exactly right, but let me try to address what you're saying in the context that I can, OK, which is what I have experience with, all right, which is New York criminal law, because I was a former prosecutor. And I'm talking in very broad terms.
But, under New York law, if you're being threatened with eminent death or very serious injury, you can use force to repel that, and that would be legal. The question that would come up, and does come up before juries and judges, is how eminent is the threat. If the threat was in this room, "I'm going to come get you," and you go home and get -- or I go home.
I don't want to suggest I am, by the way. Please, I'm not -- I don't want anybody to misunderstand what I'm trying to say.
If I go home, get a gun, come back and shoot you, that may not be legal under New York law because you would have alternative ways to defend...
COBURN: You'll have lots of 'splainin' to do.
SOTOMAYOR: I'd be in a lot of trouble then.
But I couldn't do that under a definition of self-defense. And so, that's what I was trying to explain in terms of why, in looking at this as a judge, I'm thinking about how that question comes up and how the answer can differ so radically, given the hypothetical facts before you.
COBURN: Yes. You know...
SOTOMAYOR: Or not the...
Labels: SecondAmendment, Sotomayor, SupremeCourt