Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SCOTUS-Ready, Aim, Fire

May 27, 2009

As the young folks would say "it's on, baby".

On Tuesday, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter. Sotomayor, 54, a graduate of Princeton and Yale who served as a prosecutor, corporate litigator and federal district judge before joining the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, a decade ago. If confirmed, she would become the nation’s 111th justice, the third woman to hold a seat on the court, and the sixth person on the current nine-member panel with a Roman Catholic background.

Republicans are perched at the ready and raring to go in the fight to block her confirmation. Surprise, surprise. The NY Times and SCOTUS blog report that the fight over her nomination will be a debate over the role that a judge’s experience should play in rendering decisions. Although Mr. Obama said on Tuesday that “a judge’s job is to interpret, not make law,” his emphasis on a nominee with “empathy” has generated criticism from Republicans, who saw that as code for legislating personal views from the bench.

News sources quote Judge Sotomayor as saying that “our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions.” In a lecture in 2001 on the role her background played in her jurisprudence, 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.” Another controversial statement is quoted from a conference in 2005 where she said that a “court of appeals is where policy is made,..." Republicans pointed to the comment as another sign that she would try to impose her values in rendering decisions. Opponents are latching on to the following Sotomayor's statement also: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with richness of experience would more often reach than not reach a better conclusion than a white male." I believe if you read these quotes in the context of the entire remarks, Sotomayor's meanings are much clearer and less the focus of attack.

“Judge Sotomayor is a liberal activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written,” said Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative group. “She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one’s sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.” In an appearance on HARDBALL with Chris Matthews one day after the nomination, Ms. Long laid out her case against Judge Sotomayor citing the aformentioned quotes. Again, I find it hard to believe that reading these quotes in the context of the entire remarks wouldn't change any negative views.

Some Republicans, e.g. Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, are calling the president's choice racist and calling for her to withdraw. While conservative groups took aim, Republican senators responded more cautiously, weighing how aggressively they want to fight her confirmation. Twenty-nine Senate Republicans voted against her confirmation to the appellate bench in 1998, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, now the party’s Senate leader, while 25 voted for her. Of those still in the Senate, 11 voted against her and 9 for her.

Other GOP members challenge Judge Sotomayor's credentials and academic background, disregrding the fact that she has more judical background than any other nominee to the court. They discount the fact that she was second in her class at Princeton and that she was editor of Yale Law review. I've heard statemnts to the effect that she is unqualified and was only nominated because of her sex and ethnic background. Personally, I find the allegations laughable and without merit. Karl Rove says everyone from an Ivy League school isn't smart. I wonder if he's talking about our former president, George W. Bush, who barely earned a C average while at Yale.

The battle has just begun, folks. It'll be interesting to see what else "the party of No" come up with to knock the President's nominee. Since he has sufficient votes to confirm Judge Sotomayor, it might seem pointless to some to whoop and holler over something you can't do anything about. But, if you don't have anything to offer but objections, what else can we expect?

Sources: New York Times; The Caucus Blog; SCOTUS Blog; Hardball with Chris Matthews

No comments:

Post a Comment