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Republicans urged the Obama administration and Senate Democrats not to rush the nomination into hearings. They said they want time to undertake a complete investigation.

With more than 16 years on the federal bench as both a trial judge and appeals-court judge and some 450 judicial decisions, Sotomayor has no shortage of material for both sides to investigate for evidence of bias or brilliance.

The Sotomayor nomination represents the antithesis of the Republican Supreme Court strategy of nominating a "stealth candidate." Not only is Sotomayor's judicial record long and open, but she has not been shy about expressing her views in public forums where her remarks might be quoted, recorded, or videotaped.

These, too, are expected to provide opportunities in the Senate hearings to probe bias or brilliance.

One often-cited episode occurred during a 2005 panel discussion at Duke University Law School in Durham, N.C. "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," Sotomayor said.

"I know this is on tape, and I should never say that, because we don't make law, I know. [The audience laughs.] OK, I know, I know. I'm not promoting it, I'm not advocating it, I'm, you know. Um. OK."

Critics say the comment suggests that Sotomayor may feel an entitlement to use her lifetime appointment and judicial power to work as a legal activist to shape the law and determine winners and losers in ways dictated by personal or political ideology.

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