Justice Sotomayor

Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has been nominated by President Barack Obama for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Consistent with Obama’s other cabinet and ambassadorial nominations, Sotomayor is a highly respected mainstream candidate. She has distinguished herself through her academic ability and professional skills, but not her ideology.

Justice Sotomayor was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to the federal bench in 1991 and later promoted by President Clinton to the federal court of appeals. She received bi-partisan support in both Senate confirmation votes, however, her nomination for the appellate position was stalled in the Senate committee by Republican Senators. She was criticized at that time as too liberal by the objecting Senators, who rightly saw the nomination to the 2nd Circuit as laying the foundation for a Supreme Court appointment.

Justice Sotomayor is a centrist although her opponents will likely paint her as a liberal in any attempt to derail her nomination. She is fifty-four years old and was born in New York to Puerto Rican immigrant parents. She would be the first Latina Supreme Court Justice if confirmed and would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg as the second woman currently on the high court.

Justice Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and at Yale’s law school was editor of the Yale Law Journal. With those stellar academic credentials she could have taken nearly any position in the legal field upon graduation. She chose to work for the New York District Attorney’s office, illustrating a belief in law and order and a commitment to public service. It also means she has learned something about the realities of human behavior and law enforcement.

It is her comments about being a Latina woman judge that have aroused philosophical controversy. In a 2002 lecture she said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Critics have taken this to mean that she would take up the cause of advancing women’s rights, minority rights and a liberal agenda through her judicial office. It could just as easily be read to suggest that knowledge and wisdom come from experience, as well as books. Her legal positions during her 16 years as a judge do not demonstrate disregard for legislative or executive authority.

Another comment of hers that has been attacked in the same vein is the statement “the Court of Appeals is where policy is made.” This may get some political traction because it plays into conservative concerns about judicial activism. Judges in the ideal conservative mold should interpret the constitution and laws and not “make” law. Be that as it may, in reality, judges must interpret laws in light of the facts presented, and they inevitably create legal policy through their decisions. This goes for decisions made by Justices Scalia and Thomas as much as it would for Justice Stevens or Justice Souter, whose retirement led to Justice Sotomayor’s nomination. In addition, since the Supreme Court only hears a small number of cases each year, the much larger Circuit Courts of Appeal are, in fact, where are great deal of federal law is decided.

The real test is whether her judicial philosophy allows her to freely infringe on the authority of the legislative and executive functions of government, or whether she believes that the judiciary, as the unelected branch, must tread cautiously. Justice Sotomayor’s time on the bench does not show her to be an ideological justice, but a judge focused on the facts of each case.

In a controversial case, Justice Sotomayor rejected claims by white and Hispanic firefighters who believed they were unfairly held back from promotion by government action to advance black firefighters. The case turned on whether the government had the authority to doubt the validity of the testing, which the government did, when none of the black firefighters achieved promotable results. At first, Justice Sotomayor was part of a three-judge panel that decided to accept the government’s decision and later on reconsideration she was part of a larger panel of 2nd Circuit judges reaching the same outcome. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this term whether the government’s considerations of race violated the Constitution. In either case, Justice Sotomayor’s decision is well within mainstream thinking that, in rare instances and for limited purposes, the government may consider race in employment and educational arenas.

There may be some conservative opposition to the nomination, but absent a scandal, Sotomayor’s nomination should not be difficult. Senators from both sides of the isle will want to line up to praise the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Her record is hardly extreme. And in the end, Democratic numerical superiority is too great to be overcome.

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63 comments

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin9 years ago

You're so up in your own asses when it comes to racism. Everyone that doesn't agree with you is a racist. You don't even know what a real racist is! A racist is one that truely believes that different races should live on different continents, ie. Africa for blacks, Europe for whites and Asia for asians, and so on. A true racist can not even stand to be on the same bus or plane as someone of the different race. As far as I'm concerned there are only one race. The human race. Only United States divide people into separate races. South Africa used to be a race differented country. Now only US are in that category. Any time someone raises concerns about equality or believs that backgrounds qualifies a better understanding of ordinary lifes, the oppositions claims racism or sexism. I have no problem understanding that a woman with a Hispanic, black or Puerto Rican descent have more experience to judge than a white male whose only experience in this field comes from a hispanic nanny or cleaner!

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Bogdan K.
Bogdan K10 years ago

She is definitely a racist and sexist and she have to resign. If White man would said that White man can do better job than Latina women he would be devastated immediately by brainwashed "human right activists" and feminists. But when situation is opposite majority of brainwashed people instead of criticizing starts defending her. Double standards.

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Bogdan K.
Bogdan K10 years ago

She is definitely a racist and sexist and she have to resign. If White man would said that White man can do better job than Latina women he would be devastated immediately by brainwashed "human right activists" and feminists. But when situation is opposite majority of brainwashed people instead of criticizing starts defending her. Double standards.

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Joe A.
Joe A10 years ago

She has her own agenda and does not support the constitution. So what she judged 3600 cases. It just means she knows how to play the game. Her comments prove that she will abuse the power once she gets it.

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Robert C.
Robert C10 years ago

Sotomayor had 3600 cases behind her. These will give a better idea on what kind of judge she has been. Can't get stuck on one or two comments not even made on the bench.

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PJ Johnson
PJ Johnson10 years ago

By saying she would make better decitions than a white male makes her a racist.

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Wini A.
Wini A10 years ago

One very small point. Sonia Sotomayor, is a sitting judge on the Federal Appeals Court of the Southern District of NY, therefore, Judge Sotomayor. When she is confirmed by the Senate, then she will be an Associate Justice of ,the US Supreme Court, referred then as Justice Sotomayor.

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Nancy Dodson
Nancy Dodson10 years ago

Margaret, I totally disagree with you on compassion being used by the Supreme Court. The Constitution is a wonderful guideline but it was written 200 years ago. I'm no constitutional scholar, that's for sure, but does it address abortion, gay marriage, civil rights, etc? I don't think so! Whether you like it or not I think today's Supreme Court justices have to wing it on lots of issues. You would have to be a dang robot to not bring your life experiences with you to the bench and also some empathy. Even Judge Alito and Judge Roberts both have made statements at their confirmation hearings that they brought their ethnic backgrounds with them as their relatives were immigrants (as all of ours were) and had very tough times. They stated they could not help but think of all that as they would render some of their decisions. Personally, I thought it was wonderful to see Conservatives that actually had a heart. And as for your comment that it was the job of Congress to provide the empathy: When in the world did you ever see a politician of ANY party have any concern for their constituents????????? They are too busy worrying about the next election and how much money they can get under the table for pushing legislation through for the BIG GUYS. I'm not a big fan of any politician no matter what party they represent. This whole country needs an overhaul from top to bottom in the Congress and Senate.










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Nancy Dodson
Nancy Dodson10 years ago

I just watched the head of La Raza on the Rick Sanchez show and he asked her specifically if the organization wants to reclaim the southeastern United States for Mexico and she said that was ridiculous. From what I heard the organization is over 40 years old and they help immigrants from all countries assimilate into the United States and help them when they have problems. She asked that everyone spreading all the lies about La Raza please go to their website and educate themselves about La Raza. There is so much total crap on this blog about Sonia Sotomayer being spread by hysterical conservatives it is unbelievable. Someone posted on here yesterday that 60% of her rulings were overturned. Does anyone really think a judge would remain on the bench with that record? A senator was on one of the shows on MSNBC last night and she didn't have an exact figure but she thought that of around 400 decisions she rendered 5 had been overturned. Not too bad I'd say! The part that gets me about all this idiocy is that shouldn't we as women stand up for each other as we slowly make progress in this country? My God, get the true facts and judge her on the truth not all the crazy hysteria that is running rampant on the far right!!!!! Just the usual Limbaugh, Fox trash. I have heard Republicans on tv the last couple of days that are extremely worried about the damage all this is doing to the Republican party and are saying that Cheney and Limbaugh are to blame. They are jokes!

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Rhonda Reichel
Past Member 10 years ago

She belongs to La Raza doesn't she? That's enough to disqualify her in my book. Reclaiming the southwestern United States for Hispanics ONLY sounds pretty radical to me.

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