Judging Sotomayor

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in Obama Appointments, Supreme Court

So far, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court has produced the expected reactions from political commentators.

On the right, Sotomayor is being positioned as a liberal activist and an identity-politics hack who indulges leftist policy preferences rather than ruling fairly. On the left, Sotomayor is being praised and her critics positioned as desperate obstructionists who are already stooping low to try to stop the nomination.

We know this dance don’t we? Didn’t we do the same predictable steps with Samuel Alito, except the dancers stood on opposite sides of the floor? So let’s slow down for a moment and try to look at whether Sonia Sotomayor is qualified – not just whether or not her rulings will benefit our political goals.

For background, CNN provides a good career history complete with controversial decisions and statements while Powerline prints colleague opinions on Sotomayor from the Almanac on the Federal Judiciary (Powerline adds predictable editorializing before the excerpt but the excerpt itself is informative).

Based on the basic information we have available, Sotomayor has the requisite judicial experience (she’s no Harriet Miers) and seems to be a highly intelligent, tough jurist who pushes lawyers hard and dislikes weak arguments. All good things. But when it comes to critiquing Sotomayor, I think we should look deeper. Here’s what I wrote about the Alito nomination and I think it applies here too:

I think the proper way to question this and every nominee is by delving deep into their judicial philosophy. What methods does he use to arrive at his decisions? What role should the original intent of an Article or Amendment play in decision making? What role should precedent play and when is it acceptable to overturn precedent?

…

Will Alito rule consistently, based on rigorous intellectual discipline or will he twist logic to fit desired outcomes? In my mind, that’s the real question. And that’s how I would decide if he should be confirmed.

I don’t really care about the motivations behind a nomination. Of course a liberal president will choose a liberal judge (like our former conservative president chose conservative judges). And, as far as I’m concerned, trying to measure what role identity politics played in this nomination is a dead-end street. We have to judge the nominee on her qualifications and what she will bring to the highest court.

My general philosophy on judicial nominees is this: I’m wary of judges, whether liberal or conservative, who use their position to try to remake the nation as they see fit. That’s the basic criteria/prejudice I’ll use in critiquing Sotomayor. But first I’ll need to learn a lot more and not simply rely on the sound bites and small collection of important cases currently filling the coverage of her nomination.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 and is filed under Obama Appointments, Supreme Court. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Judging Sotomayor”

  1. wj Says:

    After, perhaps, amusing ourselves with seeing the predictable reactions from the political commentators, this might be actually useful: See what judges who have actually served with her think of her abilities. From what I have seen (admittedly a very preliminary look), their opinion seems to be that she is an extremely good judge. And I was particularly taken with the fact that (if I recall the statistic correctly) when she was on a panel which made a 2-1 decision, she agreed with a conservative colleague way over 90% of the time. Which does not exactly scream “ideologue.”

  2. kranky kritter Says:

    I’ll be looking to see whether she used clear and defensible judgement when ruling in controversial cases. It’s not just one a judge ruled, it’s WHY they ruled.

    As to identity politics, one thing you can do is look to the ruler’s identities and see how they line up with their controversial rulings. For example, I’ll be looking into WHY Sotamayor ruled against the plaintiffs who sued their city when the city through out test results because they declared the tests were biased because not enough hispanics performed well. I’ll let folks know what I find out.

Leave a Reply


NOTE TO COMMENTERS:


You must ALWAYS fill in the two word CAPTCHA below to submit a comment. And if this is your first time commenting on Donklephant, it will be held in a moderation queue for approval. Please don't resubmit the same comment a couple times. We'll get around to moderating it soon enough.


Also, sometimes even if you've commented before, it may still get placed in a moderation queue and/or sent to the spam folder. If it's just in moderation queue, it'll be published, but it may be deleted if it lands in the spam folder. My apologies if this happens but there are some keywords that push it into the spam folder.


One last note, we will not tolerate comments that disparage people based on age, sex, handicap, race, color, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. We reserve the right to delete these comments and ban the people who make them from ever commenting here again.


Thanks for understanding and have a pleasurable commenting experience.


Related Posts: