A Brief Look at Sonia Sotomayor
Today, President Barack Obama announced his nominee for the Supreme Court. Justice David Souter’s replacement will be Sonia Sotomayor. So far, this morning, I’ve heard three interesting facts about Judge Sotomayor, who currently serves as a federal judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit: she may become the first Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court, she comes from a very humble background, and oh yeah, she is perhaps one of the most liberal judges the President could have picked.
As President Obama stood before the nation today and introduced Sotomayor, he insisted that the ideal Supreme Court justice would recognize the “limits of the judicial role.” I’m assuming President Obama missed this little gem from Sotomayor in 2005,
“All of the legal defense funds out there– they’re looking for people with court of appeals experience. Because court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know, I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don’t make law. I know. I know. I’m not promoting it, I’m not advocating it, I’m, y’know.”
I’m pretty sure liberals will argue that it was a joke, that it was taken out of context. I’m pretty sure if you watch the video, it’s easy to tell that it’s not really a joke at all. It’s easy to tell that *wink-wink-nudge-nudge* Judge Sotomayor more than likely thinks she does and will continue to make policy. I would not be the least bit surprised if President Obama had chosen someone else before he chose Sotomayor and then saw that statement and changed his mind, especially given that the President believes the United States Constitution is “imperfect” and “deeply flawed.”
Sotomayor’s outrageous statements do not end there. When her name was first announced, I heard several pundits and journalists touting the fact that as promised, the President chose a diverse nominee, given that Sotomayor is both Hispanic and female. I’ve also heard from not only the pundits, but from the President and Sotomayor herself, that she came from very humble beginnings and has “risen above” to become what she is today. That’s nice and I’m sure we’ll hear it many many more times in the next month or two, but at what point do we realize that doesn’t make someone a champion of the United States Constitution and that too much focus on diversity and other superficial matters can sometimes be a strong price to pay for our liberty? Perhaps when our Supreme Court nominee makes staments like this?
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice [Sandra] O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases…I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor [Martha] Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
Upon hearing that, I wonder if Sotomayor is even an appropriate candidate for the high court. According to the Oath of Justices and Judges that every federal judge must take, each judge must solemnly swear to
administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me
If Judge Sotomayor feels that a “white male” is not as good as a “Latina woman,” how does that play into her ability to uphold the Constitution?
If Sotomayor’s ideology doesn’t get in the way, it’s possible her temperament or personality may. Former Second Court clerks have described her as “not that smart” and “kind of a bully” and as having “an inflated opinion of herself.” Former prosecutors, clerks, and judicial colleagues have questioned her ability to form competent, intellectual counter arguments and say she often gets caught up in trivial details. Of course, all of this is simply heresay, but it has come from a number of sources. It will be very interesting to see how things play out as we enter the process of putting Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court.