Follow-up on Sotomayor: Biased judge with a weak legal mind
A commenter over on the Gang of Four blog asked me whether I had any evidence for my statement that Sonia Sotomayor is “bigoted". I was going to respond in a comment, but I think the question is important enough to warrant its own post.
The primary piece of evidence is her 2002 Berkeley speech in which she said:
1) a “wise Latina woman…would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male”
2) That she assumes her judging will be biased by her gender and ethnicity. Sotomayor describes another judge’s view that “judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law” and says specifically that “The aspiration to impartiality is just that–it’s an aspiration…” In other words, she repeats that she expects not to be neutral or to be able to rule based on the “reason of law.”
Although it’s not quite as strong a piece of evidence, I believe Sotomayor’s decision in the Ricci case, which the Supreme Court has now agreed to hear, was based on race. The case stems from the decision of the city of New Haven, CT, not to use the results of a test to determine promotions after no blacks passed the test. A 7-6 decision of the Second Circuit denied the plaintiffs a hearing of the case at the Second Circuit after a District Court judge had ruled against the plaintiffs who were claiming reverse discrimination, i.e. that they were not promoted only because they were white.
This article does a decent job of explaining the case, and makes note of the remarkable criticism of Sotomayor’s position by another judge (a Clinton appointee) on the Court:
That judge, Jose Cabranes, wrote a very strong dissent in which he says that Sotomayor’s opinion “tersely adopts the reasoning of a lower court – and does so without further legal analysis or even a full statement of the questions raised on appeal… (T)this Court has failed to grapple with the questions of exceptional importance raised in this appeal.”
I am also troubled by Sotomayor’s membership in the National Council of La Raza which, by its very name, has racist overtones. Some of its worst racist ties are laid out in a piece by former Congressman Charlie Norwood in an article for Human Events in 2006. A judge should not be a member of a racist organization which supports assault on US (immigration) rules and laws.
There are lots of other reasons to oppose Sotomayor, not least the fact that she is frequently overturned by the Supreme Court, and sharply criticized even when the Court finds that she got the right answer because she gets there by ignoring the law. She is indeed an activist and not an arbiter of justice based on the rule of law.
By my reading, Sotomayor has been overturned 8 out of 12 times in which her decisions have reached the Supreme Court. And in 2 of the 4 cases in which she was upheld, the Supreme Court criticized her reasoning.
To put it plainly: She is a bad judge, with a weak legal mind.
My opposition to her has nothing whatever to do with the color of her skin. (For example, I was a strong supporter of Janice Rogers Brown.)
And I will not succumb to your cheap rhetorical device – the same thing the Obama Administration is trying to do – of saying I won’t criticize a horrible judge out of fear of criticizing a Hispanic woman. Her background and gender are irrelevant except to the extent that they are to her the most relevant factors (or at least highly relevant factors) in how she decides cases. And on that basis, she is unfit to be a Supreme Court judge.
How would you feel if you were a plaintiff who had been ruled against by a Hispanic and/or woman judge and your case was going before a Supreme Court containing Sotomayor? You’d want to ask her to recuse herself! But then she wouldn’t and you’d feel as if you’d biased her even further against you by your recusal request. Justice cannot be done in many cases if she is on the Court.
It’s that much worse given her reputation is as a person who doesn’t listen very well, with one story about another judge having to lean over to her and ask her to stop talking so that the actual plaintiff and defendant in the case could get a word in.
Furthermore, she seems to have a reputation as someone who does not have a great legal mind. Indeed, liberal law professor Jonathan Turley recently read several dozen of Sotomayor’s decisions and concluded that “they are notable in one thing and that it’s a lack of depth.” Turley also said that Sotomayor is not an “intellectual powerhouse” and that “You really can’t read the opinions of this nominee and say, ‘Oh yeah, this person is a natural choice for the Supreme Court.’” (See two Turley interviews on Sotomayor HERE if the video window doesn’t appear below in your browser.)
Everything we seem to learn about Sotomayor fits a picture which is rapidly coming into focus: A judge whose real motivation is making policy. Indeed she said so, offering Columbia Law School students the pearl of her perverted wisdom that the “Court of Appeals is where policy is made.” If you view your role as making policy, it’s not surprising that you give short shrift to actual legal analysis. You don’t care about the process or the law; your goal is your goal, and the ends justify the means, as is typical in liberal thought processes.
The Supreme Court is not a place for the implementation of a judge’s personal views on race or gender through favoring minority or female plaintiffs over white men who are, believe it or not, frequently in the right. As many have said, justice is blind for a reason, and have some have suggested, Sotomayor feels the need to “peek out from under the blindfold” see the skin color or gender of the people in the court before making a decision.
There are others who are offering interesting opinions, more or less in line with my views, such as this somewhat hyperbolic and quite amusing piece which makes the point well: “What about albino hunchback lesbians of Vietnamese descent?“
Also, Thomas Sowell likens the decision about Sotomayor to the decision about which surgeon you’d want operating on your heart. Would you really care about the circumstances of that doctor’s upbringing, culturally speaking, or would you just want the best surgeon?
And just for fun, here’s an article which argues: “Sotomayor automatically disqualified: cannot fulfill her oath of office“
And yet another critique of Sotomayer by a liberal, Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic: “The Case Against Sotomayor“
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