Monday, May 04, 2009

The New Republic: The Case Against Sonia Sotomayor

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.

By JEFFREY ROSEN, May 4, 2009 · A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Sonia Sotomayor's biography is so compelling that many view her as the presumptive front-runner for Obama's first Supreme Court appointment. She grew up in the South Bronx, the daughter of Puerto Rican parents. Her father, a manual laborer who never attended high school, died a year after she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight. She was raised by her mother, a nurse, and went to Princeton and then Yale Law School. She worked as a New York assistant district attorney and commercial litigator before Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recommended her as a district court nominee to the first President Bush. She would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, if you don't count Benjamin Cardozo. (She went to Catholic schools and would also be the sixth Catholic justice on the current Supreme Court if she is, in fact, Catholic, which isn't clear from her official biography.) And she has powerful supporters: Last month, the two senators from New York wrote to President Obama in a burst of demographic enthusiasm, urging him to appoint Sotomayor or Ken Salazar.

Sotomayor's former clerks sing her praises as a demanding but thoughtful boss whose personal experiences have given her a commitment to legal fairness. "She is a rule-bound pragmatist—very geared toward determining what the right answer is and what the law dictates, but her general approach is, unsurprisingly, influenced by her unique background," says one former clerk. "She grew up in a situation of disadvantage, and was able, by virtue of the system operating in such a fair way, to accomplish what she did. I think she sees the law as an instrument that can accomplish the same thing for other people, a system that, if administered fairly, can give everyone the fair break they deserve, regardless of who they are."

Her former clerks report that because Sotomayor is divorced and has no children, her clerks become like her extended family—working late with her, visiting her apartment once a month for card games (where she remembers their favorite drinks), and taking a field trip together to the premier of a Harry Potter movie.

But despite the praise from some of her former clerks, and warm words from some of her Second Circuit colleagues, there are also many reservations about Sotomayor. Over the past few weeks, 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. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

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. "

Jeffrey Rosen is the legal affairs editor at The New Republic.

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  • 1 comment:

    Vicente Duque said...

    Gregory Rodriguez thinks that Sonia Sotomayor won't be appointed to Supreme Court - Because Republicans do not court Latinos

    I feel a lot of respect and admiration for Gregory Rodriguez, Great Intelligence and Great Intellectual. He may be wrong, but he is always very deep in his thoughts and comments.

    My Corollary for this Theorem is that CIR or "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" is not so important for Obama and pursuing it could be a Pandora's Box for Democrats.

    Los Angeles Times
    The jilted Latino voter
    Both parties once courted Latino voters. But the GOP tilted rightward, and now the economy and jobs are the big issues, even among Latinos. It all means less focus on them as a voting bloc.

    Gregory Rodriguez
    May 11, 2009,0,7559755.column

    Some excerpts :

    Paradoxically, it might be that such lopsided support means there will not be a Latino nominated to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. It's one thing to put U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a New Yorker and the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, on the short list.

    But without solid Republican competition for Latino votes, the pressure to actually name her is minimal. (Besides, the White House is no doubt aware that Puerto Ricans make up less than 10% of the U.S. Latino population and, if Obama is looking for gains in that demographic, such a selection would have little political resonance in Western battleground states and among the two-thirds of Latinos who are of Mexican origin.)

    All this adds up to Democratic complacency vis-a-vis Latino voters (and probably no Latino nominee). Democrats have other constituencies -- generally more sophisticated, monied and politically savvy -- to tend to.

    In the meantime, a survey published last week by the nonpartisan Latino Decisions found that 63% of respondents identify the economy and jobs as the "most important issue for the new administration this year" (at 12%, immigration reform was a distant second). That means that, like most Americans, Latinos have money on their minds. And if the president helps ease the financial crisis, he's likely to keep their support no matter what else he does.

    Democratic strategists surely recognize the growing role Latinos will play in the future of politics in this country. The question is how far out of their way they will go to court them, especially without the presence of Republicans vying for Latinos' electoral love.

    Vicente Duque