Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Judge Sonia Sotomayor

The president has named a replacement for retiring Justice David Souter to the Supreme Court. She is Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Sotomayor seems like a slam dunk, so to speak. She was originally appointed as a federal judge by President George H.W. Bush and placed on the Second Circuit by President Bill Clinton, so there's a certain air of "bi-partisanism" about her. She has more experience as a judge than any of the justices currently serving, including the high profile Major League Baseball strike in 1995. She sided with players over owners, leading to the claim that she "saved baseball in America". And, though this makes no difference to me at all, she's also a woman, and would be the first Hispanic to be appointed to the highest court in the land.

She's also earned a certain amount of controversy, though. Recently, she sided with the city of New Haven, CT in a classic affirmative action case. The city completely refused to promote qualified firefighters because candidates for promotion were predominantly white. The candidates were chosen based on test scores, and there weren't more "minority candidates" because more minorities didn't test high enough to warrant promotion. The city threw out the test results, though, and the firefighters sued the city. That case, which failed to find justice in the appeals court, is now on its way to the Supreme Court.

There was also a news conference where she made the inflammatory statement that the appeals court is "where policy is made". She quickly retracted, noticing that she was on video and quickly declaring "I should never say that, because we don't make law." I'm a fierce opponent of judicial activism in any form, and have never been comfortable with the president's statement that he wanted a new justice who would allow for empathy as well as knowledge of the law in his or her decision-making. That, to me, seems unwise, since the Supreme Court is charged with defending the Constitution, not the people. Judge Sotomayor seems like what the president wants in a jurist; but she's not what I want.

No one can doubt her qualifications. Obviously, she's a brilliant woman with a great love of the law. But will she follow it, or try to shape it? There are many, certainly, who will stand by her in this long confirmation process. In the interests of justice, though, someone needs to examine her negatives. I've already written to both of my Senators, and I urge all of you to do the same.

Dear Senator,

By now, I'm sure you know of President Obama's selection of Judge Sotomayor to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. Senator, if you have any influence during her confirmation hearings, then I hope you will use it.

There’s always at least one case that provides a backdoor to a judge’s (or politician’s) true ideology. In Judge Sotomayor’s case, ruling that minority quotas are more important than ability to save lives in the New Haven firefighter case shows where her priorities lie. As I understand it, that case will soon find its way before the Supreme Court, in a strange twist of fate.

Beyond this, there's the troubling assertion she made once that policy is "made" in the Appeals Courts. This statement, made on video while sitting on the Appeals Court bench during a hearing, suggests a troubling level of activism.

Senator, I've written before on the subject of judicial activism. This, combined with her ironic position on affirmative action, is a serious concern for me. While you may not think they disqualify her for the highest court in the land, I hope you will use your influence to at least have them addressed. Thank you for your time.


Stephen Monteith

1 comment:

  1. Wow stephen! You said it all. They are making a big deal about what race she is. Are we electing people into these offices so that the is one of each race. This does make you think. I really enjoyed this.