WASHINGTON — The White House contacted Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor about serving on the high court four days before Justice David Souter announced that he would retire, the judge revealed Thursday, as she sent a Senate panel a massive portfolio of personal details and writings that will shape the debate on her confirmation.
The five boxes of files delivered to Capitol Hill gave senators a fuller picture of Sotomayor's background and record, as well as of how President Barack Obama came to nominate his first Supreme Court choice. They came in response to a questionnaire the Senate Judiciary Committee sends federal court nominees.
Sotomayor, who will replace Souter on the court if confirmed, first got a call from White House Counsel Gregory Craig on April 27, then had near-daily contact with his office after Souter announced his retirement May 1.
Sotomayor told the committee that no one ever asked her position during the selection process about any issue that could come before the Supreme Court.
There's little doubt that Sotomayor will be confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Republicans are balking at Democratic efforts to ensure a speedy set of hearings and summertime vote for the appeals court judge, whose record, they say, warrants a longer debate.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, wants hearings to begin next month. He's negotiating with the top Republican on the committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who says he'd rather go slower, with hearings in September.
The documents also described Sotomayor's finances, which paint a portrait of a New Yorker in an expensive neighborhood who may be living largely paycheck to paycheck. She has $1.16 million in assets, but $418,350 in debts, including her mortgage, credit card bills and a big dentist bill. Previous financial disclosure reports showed her with an annual income of about $200,000.