President Obama announced today that he will be appointing Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. With Sotomayor’s nomination, there has been a flurry of questions surrounding her nomination, including lots of dissent. Will she be an activist judge or a judge that seeks to uphold the Constitution?
Let’s look at some recent statements that might lend some light into her view of interpreting the law from a speech that she made to La Raza in October 2001.
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
From a Duke University panel discussion in February 2005.
“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. 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. [Laughter from audience] Okay, I know. I know. I’m not promoting it, and I’m not advocating it. I’m, you know. [More laughter] 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.
Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic even discussed why Sotomayor might not be a good choice for this position. While many law clerks praised her work, there were a few who cited that she often made oversight onto particular details involving some high-profile cases.
Some former clerks and prosecutors expressed concerns about her command of technical legal details: In 2001, for example, a conservative colleague, Ralph Winter, included an unusual footnote in a case suggesting that an earlier opinion by Sotomayor might have inadvertently misstated the law in a way that misled litigants. The most controversial case in which Sotomayor participated is Ricci v. DeStefano, the explosive case involving affirmative action in the New Haven fire department, which is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court. A panel including Sotomayor ruled against the firefighters in a perfunctory unpublished opinion. This provoked Judge Cabranes, a fellow Clinton appointee, to object to the panel’s opinion that contained “no reference whatsoever to the constitutional issues at the core of this case.” (The extent of Sotomayor’s involvement in the opinion itself is not publicly known.)
I thought Obama was seeking someone with a strong judicial background. I guess strong judicial background is someone who thinks the Courtrooms of America establish policy. Someone better inform Congress that they are out of business if this is the case.