Justice Sotomayor: The reward for suffering fools patiently

by on August 7, 2009  •  In Congress, Supreme Court

0715_sonia_460x276 The core point in the debate over soon-to-be Justice Sotomayor's confirmation was whether she is a centrist, as virtually her entire body of opinions indicated, or a leftist, as various right-wing Republicans labored mightily to construct.  The truth, of course, (as with breath mints and candy mints) is that she is both. Why? Because this is what happens when the left wing of the Supreme Court consists of centrists.

My bet is that her career as a justice, at least in the early years but perhaps enduringly, will look a lot like that of Justice Ginsburg.  One senses that Sotomayor has clear and strong progressive beliefs, not from the kind of legal trailblazing that Justice Ginsburg did in the 1970s, but from her own personal story and affiliations.  I suspect that she, like Ginsburg, trimmed those sails during the years that she served on the Court of Appeals, given that it would have been impossible for her not to know that if a Democratic president got to appoint the first Hispanic justice, she had the inside track for the nomination. Both women had impeccable precedent-following, fact-limited approaches to appellate judging.  As a justice, Ginsburg has been less a trailblazer than a thoroughly dependable progressive vote, far beyond just women's issues, and one of this Court's anchors of humane jurisprudence, all of which is not bad as legacies go.  But I hope that Sotomayor will be more inclined to swing for the fences now and then.

Sotomayor's confirmation process produced little of any real interest or substance. It did illustrate, however, the idiocy that nominees have to endure.  In honor of her having survived it, therefore, I offer my top 10 list of moments when not laughing, crying or choking must have been tough:

(10) Sen. Coburn: Do you believe that our federal courts enable the federal government to exceed its intended boundaries by interpreting Article I's commerce clause and necessary and proper clause to delegate virtual unlimited authority to the federal government?

(9) Sen. Graham: What is identity politics? … Do you embrace identity politics?

(8) Sen. Graham: What did September the 11th, 2001, mean to you?

(7) Sen. Coburn: Do you not consider it ironic that the majority of the debate about the 14th Amendment in this country was about the taking of guns from freed slaves? Is that not ironic that we now have some kind of conflict that we're going to say that the whole reason in the debate about the 14th Amendment originated from states taking away the rights of people's fundamental right to defend themselves? Is that not an irony to you?

(6) Sen. Sessions: Aren't you saying there that you expect your background and — and heritage to influence your decision-making?

(5) Sen.Graham: Now, legal realism, are you familiar with that term?

(4) Sen. Grassley: Do you find it unreasonable that the EPA was willing to allow money to be spent in a cost-effective manner by not requiring billions of additional dollars to be spent to save a minimal number of additional fish?

(3) Sen. Graham: From what you read and what you understand about the enemy that this country faces, do you believe there are people out there right now plotting our destruction?

(2) Sen. Kyl: You've always been able to find a legal basis for every decision that you've rendered as a judge?

(1) Sen. Graham: Do you think you have a temperament problem?


One Response to Justice Sotomayor: The reward for suffering fools patiently

  1. Darren Hutchinson August 9, 2009 at 4:26 PM

    Drivel from the greying, decaying crowd.

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