Sotomayor Reax


Tom Goldstein (his whole post is well worth reading):

Opponents’ first claim – likely stated obliquely and only on background – will be that Judge Sotomayor is not smart enough for the job.  This is a critical ground for the White House to capture.  The public expects Supreme Court Justices to be brilliant.  Harriet Miers was painted (frequently, by conservatives) as not up to the job.  The same claim (absurd to anyone who has talked with him) is still made by the left about Clarence Thomas.  By contrast, John Roberts was described as brilliant and Sam Alito as exceptionally smart. The objective evidence is that Sotomayor is in fact extremely intelligent.  Graduating at the top of the class at Princeton is a signal accomplishment.  Her opinions are thorough, well-reasoned, and clearly written.  Nothing suggests she isn’t the match of the other Justices.

Ilya Somin:

I am not yet sure what position to take on President Obama's selection of Sonia Sotomayor. My general sense is that she is very liberal, and thus likely to take what I consider to be mistaken positions on many major constitutional law issues. I am also not favorably impressed with her notorious statement that "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Not only is it objectionable in and of itself, it also suggests that Sotomayor is a committed believer in the identity politics school of left-wing thought. Worse, it implies that she believes that it is legitimate for judges to base decisions in part based on their ethnic or racial origins.

Scott Lemieux:

If the GOP wants to make a big stand on affirmative action in the context of the first Hispanic-American nominee -- and hence continue its demographic death spiral -- I say bring it on.

Greg Sargent makes the same point:

How do Republicans oppose the first potential Hispanic Supreme Court justice, given their much-vaunted outreach to Latinos in 2006 and 2008, the losses the GOP has suffered with this group given the party’s immigration stands, and the party’s desperate need to expand racially and demographically among such groups? The optics of GOP opposition here likely would look awful.

So does Alex Massie:

Identity politics and treating entire swathes of the population as client groups is not an especially bonny aspect of American politics. But it is what it is. While it's not obviously the case that just putting the first hspanic justice on the bench necessarily advances or even much solidifies Democratic support amongst latino voters, one can easily imagine a situation in which a raucous, energetic, strident Republican attempt to derail the nomination could further alienate hispanic voters from the GOP. That might be unfair, but I wager it's how it would be perceived by latino voters. So this would seem, at first blush, to be the trap Obama has set for the Republicans: accept the nomination (assuming there's no scandal) and like it or fight it and lose and do more damage to your own interests than you would if you'd simply seethed in silence and accepted your inevitable defeat. It's one they do not need to fall into...

And Ben Smith looks at the specifics of GOP opposition:

Obama has signaled that he plans a much more populist appeal, stressing the common touch, than the usual intellectual, legal and Beltway-centric defenses of Supreme Court nominees. And my view is that this nomination, barring surprises, carries far more risk for the Republican Party than for the White House. As I reported last week, the RNC commissioned a post-election review late last year and found that among the most urgent priorities was that the party not come across as anti-Hispanic during an immigration debate. Senate Republicans, led by Jeff Sessions, are likely to be painfully careful not even to be hinting at anything other than consuming respect for Sotomayor and her pioneering status. Talk radio is likely to be less careful and to be gleefully reposted by Media Matters and widely circulated in the Spanish-language media. Fierce opposition from the right could push Florida and the West out of reach. (Watch for what Charlie Crist says about her.) Less fierce opposition doesn't do the GOP much good either.

Wendy Long:

She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court.

Given that we were certain to get a liberal justice out of Obama, I suppose one has to take comfort in knowing that Obama made a quota pick too, and did not choose a liberal justice who can match intellects with Roberts and Scalia.

Jim Lindgren:

Compared to recent nominees, Sotomayor is a far more distinguished choice than was Harriet Miers (whom I opposed), but a less distinguished choice than John Roberts and probably Samuel Alito as well. I expect Sotomayor to be confirmed, but without too much enthusuasm, except in a few pockets of the Democratic coalition.


It is very encouraging that Obama ignored the ugly, vindictive, and anonymous smear campaign led by The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen and his secret cast of cowardly Eminent Liberal Legal Scholars of the Respectable Intellectual Center.  People like that, engaging in tactics of that sort, have exerted far too much influence on our political culture for far too long, and Obama's selection of one of their most recent targets both reflects and advances the erosion of their odious influence.  And Obama's choice is also a repudiation of the Jeffrey-Rosen/Ben-Wittes/Stuart-Taylor grievance on behalf of white males that, as Dahlia Lithwick put it, "a diverse bench must inevitably be a second-rate bench."


"Where policy is made." That's how, in 2005, reported Supreme Court pick Sonia Sotomayor characterized the Court of Appeals, where she now serves. It's undoubtedly even truer, in her eyes, about the Supreme Court. The debate over her confirmation could be an interesting "teaching moment"--a politically important teaching moment--for constitutionalists who would beg to differ from Sotomayor's vision of the appropriate role of the federal judiciary.


Long before the SCOTUS storm, in 1992 the New York Times profiled Justice Sotomayor and it remains one of the more informative pieces written about her. After growing up in a Bronx housing project, she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, became an editor of the Yale Law Journal at Yale Law School, and spent five years working in the Manhattan district attorney's office. She then became a high-earning commercial litigator before being appointed by Mr Bush. Justice Sotomayor is obviously qualified, but Mr Obama recently said he was looking for something more in his nominee. "I want somebody who has the intellectual firepower but also a little bit of a common touch and has a practical sense of how the world works," he said over the weekend.

Rick Garnett:

Six (!) Catholics on the Court? So, it sounds like President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice Souter.  Could it be that we will soon have a Supreme Court that is two-thirds Catholic (and 1/9th "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant")?  Poor Chris Hitchens!

I suspect her Catholicism may come in for a theocon inquisition. I don't like her affirmative action views, but I've always taken the view that a president gets wide lee-way in this kind of appointment. I see no good reason to oppose her - and some real perils for the GOP if they beat up on a brilliant and self-made Latina on SCOTUS. They must know the country they purport to want to govern.

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty.)