Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I'm starting to feel like a scratched record, playing the same note over and over again. (Yeah, I know everyone today talks about Groundhog Day, but I'm old fashioned that way.) Still, the more I learn about Judge Sotomayor the more I'm convinced that she's going to be exactly who we don't want sitting on the Supreme Court.

OK, she's got a great personal story (detailed and glorified by the White House here). So does Clarence Thomas. So do lots of people. Doesn't make them the right folks to decide Constitutional questions.

She has indicated over the years a personal commitment to the advancement of Latinos, women, perhaps other historically disadvantaged and discriminated against groups. Her politics are, one assumes, generally centrist/left, which is likely what we ought to have expected from a President who, despite the claims of Rush and Newt and Mitch McConnell, and regardless of what his personal preferences might be, is for the most part (yes, you have to ignore the takeover of the auto industry) proving to be resolutely moderate in his approach to governance.

But Felix Frankfurter was clearly a liberal while a professor at Harvard yet disappointed Roosevelt (and other liberals) as a generally conservative Justice. Politics don't tell the whole story any more than do life experiences.

The thing is, there's nothing much stealth about Judge Sotomayor. She may never have ruled on abortion or the constitutionality of the death penalty or gay rights, but she's written hundreds of judicial opinions, given dozens of speeches, taken public stands over the decades on a variety of issues. The vast majority of that is referenced, one way or another, in the 172 page questionnaire and attachments she presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee. If we parse that collection carefully, we can get a pretty good idea of just what sort of justice she's likely to be.

Want a more humanized version? See this story from yesterday's NY Times about a case where she denied habeas relief under AEDPA to an innocent man doing time for murder.

Or you can just look at what was said at a press conference yesterday morning (here) to announce that eight law enforcement agencies were endorsing her for the Court. Surrounded by nine police chiefs, Joe Biden explained what sort of a justice she'd be from their point of view.
So you all are on the front lines. But as you do your job, know that Judge Sotomayor has your back as well.
Form over function. Law enforcement over morality. Empathy only for police and prosecutors.

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