Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on Sotomayor

Obama just named his first nominee to the Supreme Court. I’ve been reading up today and here is a quick summary of what I’ve learned.

1. She is very qualified, very smart, has lots of experience and is extremely meticulous in her decision-making. One article I read said that she includes extensive footnotes of support and evidence even on non-controversial points. In other words, she is well respected in the legal community.
2. She will probably be attacked on the following points:
a. She once said in an off-hand, tongue-in-cheek way that law students should want clerkships on the Appellate Court because that is where the laws are made. She clarified that the Court does not make law, that she does not agree with the practice, and that it is mostly a product of the interpretive power of the Court, but some will argue that this makes her an activist.
b. In an interview once she suggested that a Hispanic woman with diverse life experiences would likely make better decisions than an old white man because he would have less lived experiences to draw from. Conservative commentators have said this makes her a racist.
c. She voted to not hear a case of reverse discrimination. White firefighters were arguing that affirmative action policies were preventing them from receiving fair promotions. The decision that she was a part of was apparently dismissive, much less thorough than is her M.O. Conservatives are again arguing she is a racist. More thoughtful critics are concerned about what it means that she did not pay as careful attention to this particular case.
So far that’s all I’ve heard for criticism. Limbaugh has already called her a racist, so for what that’s worth…
3. She seems to be liberal but it’s hard to say how much. She seems fairly acceptable to most conservatives. One right-wing commentator said that the extreme left would be disappointed with her as a selection, another that she is a far less radical choice than the extremely radical Obama could have made, and many highly conservative Republican Senators voted for her confirmation to the Appellate court (including Orin Hatch from my home state, Utah).
4. In spite of her relative moderation the liberal bloggers seem very happy to have her as the nominee. No one is complaining that she is too liberal or not liberal enough.
5. She has very few rulings, none of them seem major, on hot-button legal issues like abortion.
6. She saved baseball.
7. Identity politics: Do not expect a lot of Republican opposition. Republican strategists that advise about how to court the Hispanic vote insist that major opposition to her confirmation would be the nail in the coffin for the GOP’s hopes to get Hispanic votes. I seriously doubt they would do this, and are already avoiding the harsh rhetoric being used by conservative talk radio and such, but if they did it would, in my humble opinion, be the kiss of death for the Republican Party. I predict an easy confirmation. Here is a cool article on that question: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-court-assess27-2009may27,0,4057686.story

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