Last week news broke that Sonia Sotomayor would be President Barack Obama's pick for the Supreme Court of the United States. In the aftermath of his announcement, there has been a flurry of articles analyzing the racial issues underlying Sotomayor's appointment, like an article on CNN.com, which said:
"The Republican Party risks further alienating Hispanic voters if it challenges the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, who would become the first Hispanic, and the third woman, on the Supreme Court..."Or one on Bloomberg.com, which said:
"By nominating Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, President Barack Obama all but dared Senate Republicans to risk alienating Latinos by trying to block her confirmation."It is sad to see that in our supposedly post-racial country, presided over by our first black president, that if Senate Republicans have legitimate, non-racial concerns about Judge Sotomayor sitting on our nation's highest court, that they will be shut down and written off as racist, that there can be no argument, that there can be no debate, and that Sonia Sotomayor's race is the final argument to which there can be no answer.
If this is the state of the Union, then perhaps Attorney General Eric Holder's words ring true, if not quite the way he meant them. When it comes to race, we may in fact be a nation of cowards.
Sotomayor's Own Racially Charged Rhetoric
According to the New York Times, Judge Sotomayor gave a speech in 2001 declaring that a judge's sex and ethnicity "may and will make a difference in our judging." She is likely correct. Even empirical studies have validated the idea that the sexual composition of a court has an effect on its rulings.
The moral question here is whether that should make any difference, or whether justice should be blind and grounded objectively in the exercise of human rights irrespective of sexual or ethnic differences. On that question, Judge Sotomayor dispenses with objective justice in favor of racism and sexism, departing from the philosophy and liberal values that undergird the modern Western system of justice:
"In her speech, Judge Sotomayor questioned the famous notion — often invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired Supreme Court colleague, Sandra Day O’Connor — that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion when deciding cases.This in itself should disqualify Sotomayor from sitting on any court, much less the Supreme Court of the United States. But it gets worse...
'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,' said Judge Sotomayor."
Sotomayor's Personal Qualifications
The Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro noted that "Judge Sotomayor is not one of the leading lights of the federal judiciary and would not even have been on the shortlist if she were not Hispanic. She has a mixed reputation, with a questionable temperament and no particularly important opinions in over 10 years on the Second Circuit." It would appear his words ring true.
Jeffrey Rosen at The New Republic writes the following in "The Case Against Sotomayor:
"I've been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court...Judge Sotomayor's Record
The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was 'not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,' as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. 'She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue...'
Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees... Sotomayor, several former clerks complained, rankled her colleagues by sending long memos that didn't distinguish between substantive and trivial points, with petty editing suggestions--fixing typos and the like--rather than focusing on the core analytical issues."
Sotomayor's legal skills however are less troubling to me than her record of trampling on our basic freedoms as enumerated in the Constitution. Take her extreme stance on the 2nd Amendment as an example:
"Earlier this year, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee joined an opinion with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Second Amendment rights do not apply to the states.Then there's Sotomayor's dubious record on the 1st Amendment:
A 2004 opinion she joined also cited as precedent that 'the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right.'"
"[I]n a case that was later reversed by the Supreme Court as Randall v. Sorrell, Judge Sotomayor voted to leave intact a ruling that not only upheld extremely low candidate contribution limits imposed by the State of Vermont, but also more than suggested that candidate expenditure limits might be constitutional, too, despite the First Amendment."And that's not all. Listen to this:
"Sotomayor was criticized by some student-speech advocates after a decision in May 2008, in which she joined two 2nd Circuit colleagues in deferring to Connecticut high school administrators who had punished a student for an off-campus blog entry about a canceled student event."The list goes on and on. There's Judge Sotomayor's weak stance on private property rights, her activist ruling on the 90s baseball strike, and her decidedly unempathetic decision in Ricci v. DeStefano to summarily affirm a district court's ruling against a hispanic firefighter who was denied a promotion by the city of New Haven because no black firefighters passed the race-neutral exam they had to pass in order to qualify.
In addition to all of these dreadful aspects of Judge Sotomayor's record, there's one other thing you need to know. She said this once:
Editor's Note - Wes is Editor of the Humble Libertarian. He is a "Rand Paul Republican." His blog recently released the list of the Top 100 Libertarian websites and blogs.
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