Archive for May, 2009
Just days after President Obama’s decision to nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, one doesn’t have to look too hard to find an opinion on the subject. Advertisements supporting and opposing the nomination can already be found on television, and statements from dozens of organizations have already been released.
The Washington Post reports that conservative legal groups are attempting to define her as a judicial activist, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich going so far as to call her a racist. Charmaine Yoest of the conservative group Americans United for Life had this to say about the nominee: “There is no doubt that Judge Sotomayor’s philosophy is that she is not only a practitioner of activism, but a defender of it.”
Judge Sotomayor also has her share of supporters. Senator Leahy released a statement praising her for her work on the bench:
Judge Sotomayor has a long and distinguished career on the federal bench. She has been nominated by both Democratic and Republican presidents, and she was twice confirmed by the Senate with strong, bipartisan support. Her record is exemplary. Judge Sotomayor’s nomination is an historic one, and when confirmed she will become the first Hispanic Justice, and just the third woman to sit on the nation’s highest court.
Vice President Joe Biden praised the Sotomayor nomination as a “home run” because of her life story, arguing in an e-mail to supporters that as someone “herself born and raised in a South Bronx housing project — has summed up the American dream in her own incredible story and never once forgotten how the law affects our daily lives.”
Despite the backlash from conservative groups, it is generally expected that Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed, given the overwhelming majority Democrats enjoy in the Senate. In fact, Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has admitted that there is little chance of a filibuster, according to the Associated Press. However, he has promised to raise questions about what he calls “serious problems” regarding Judge Sotomayor.
“We have an absolute constitutional duty to make sure that any nominee, no matter what their background and what kind of life story they have . . . will be faithful to the law and not allow their personal views to influence decision-making,” Sen. Sessions said.
Initial polling also seems to favor her confirmation. Talking Points Memo discusses two new polls that show an overall favorable opinion of Judge Sotomayor from the general public.
Much like the 2005-06 confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito, competing groups have wasted no time in framing the debate over appellate judge Sonia Sotomayer.
Attacks on Sotomayor have focused on several public statements to suggest she is willing to trump the rule of law in favor of ethnic and other considerations. They also have focused on a few potentially controversial cases, involving a New Haven firefighters discrimination case and an eminent domain action.
The Judicial Confirmation Network ad asks: “Equal justice under the law? Or equal justice under attack? America deserves better.”
Particulars of the attack on Sotomayor are spelled out well in a Christian Science Monitor op-ed, by law professor John Eastman.
Supporters of Sotomayor accuse critics of cherrypicking Sotomayor’s cases, saying that she has participated in 3,000 decisions as an appellate judge and written 400 opinions, the vast majority without controversy. The ad by the Coalition for Constitutional Values, which is made up of the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, and the People for the American Way , shows pictures and text praising Sotomayor, set against a voiceover by President Obama. Read more
On a day when Wisconsin legislators are considering bills to publicly finance appellate court elections, and to require all sponsors of election-related communications to reveal their financial sources, the Wisconsin State Journal has called for merit selection of judges, saying that modern-day judicial elections have created irreconcilable conflicts.
The editorial, “Impartial Justice? More Doubts About the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” notes a move to force Justice Michael Gableman, left, to step aside from a case involving a criminal defendant, who argues that Gableman’s statements on the campaign trail show a prejudiced refusal to consider “loopholes” that might free a suspect.
It also notes the growing role of special-interest spending in state Supreme Court elections:
When justices are elected after big-money campaigns in which partisan sides back candidates partial to their politics, the system of checks and balances is jeopardized.
And so is our trust in the court’s fairness.
Who was the first president to have a Supreme Court nomination slapped down by the Senate? (Hint: think “Father of Our Country.”
In one of the most enjoyable reads inspired by the new Supreme Court vacancy, Time magazine has a pictorial survey of its top 10 “bench battles.” In addition to famous battles involving Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, it retells the long-forgotten fights against John Rutledge, left, who participated in the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and renowned Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.
The article makes clear that while modern Supreme Court fights have created entrenched groups with unprecedented financial muscle, fights over court selection are anything but new.
Prop. 8, the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in California, has been upheld 6-1 by the state Supreme Court.
The ballot measure has triggered angry words toward the high court from opposing sides. Opponents of gay marriage had issued veiled threats to unseat state Supreme Court justices if they had found Prop. 8 in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Advocates of gay marriage had scheduled a national “Day of Decision” rally in more than 100 cities, and one ActBlue.org fund-raising appeal said, “Today, we learned that we cannot rely on the courts to protect us.”
The news in Washington today is President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, a New York-based federal appellate judge who would become the nation’s first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Before offering a few thoughts on today’s announcement ceremony (for C-Span video, click here), here are some valuable media links:
Also, the Justice at Stake Supreme Court Watch resource page will give regular updates on Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation process and special-interest group activities for and against her nomination.
Today’s announcement: tremendous stress seemed to be placed on Sotomayor’s intellect and commitment to the rule of law. Without backing away from the notion of “empathy”–a value Obama cited for Supreme Court nominees that conservative opponents have criticized sharply–other qualities took center stage at today’s announcement. Read more