Yesterday, I spoke to U. of Illinois Prof. Robin Kar, a former clerk to Judge Sonia Sotomayor. He was seething about Jeffrey Rosen's short, anonymously-sourced capsule profile on Sotomayor in the New Republic. Since Sotomayor is a legitimate top-tier candidate, I encouraged Kar to respond -- on the record -- on my blog. Alas, although probably a better decision, he responded on prawfsblawg. In this pre-definitional period, for those who want to prevent critics from framing a Sotomayor pick -- and I do know that Obama really really thinks highly of her -- here is Kar's defense.
I suspect that some people on the left may be concerned about Judge Sotomayor because she may not be the "liberal antidote to Justice Scalia" that some have desired. But this is no indictment of her intelligence, but rather of their imagination. Getting at the truth in the law, and beginning to change the tone on the Court, will not involve concocting a distinct but overly general, and ultimately erroneous, theory of how things like meaning or interpretation work to counter Justice Scalia's. Nor will it involve the development of ideas, or forms of expression, that increase the mutual sense of alienation and resentment among Americans in both parties toward one another. In my view, the standard liberal expectations for a great jurist are thus behind the times in many ways, and it is a testament to Judge Sotomayor that she would much more likely break the mold for such expectations and bring us all forward in the process. The time for endless tit-for-tats on the Court, as in politics, is coming to an end, and Judge Sotomayor would be the ideal justice to help move the Court into a newer, saner, more thoughtful, and more unified era. Indeed, she is perhaps uniquely qualified to do so.