Saturday, June 06, 2009

Picking Sonia

I've held off discussing President Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick, Sonia Sontomayor, because I know little about her and much of the public debate so far about identity politics, etc., has been uninformative. Thankfully, via SCOTUSBlog, there's a lot of information now available about her that I'll be perusing over the coming weeks:

Judge Sotomayor’s completed Senate Judiciary questionnaire is available for download here.

The transcript of her confirmation hearing for the Second Circuit is available here and her Judiciary questionnaire from that hearing is available in two parts: here and here.

The transcript of her confirmation hearing for the Southern District of New York is available here and her Judiciary questionnaire from that hearing is available in two parts: here and here.

So far, I must admit I find myself unexcited by Judge Sotomayor, pro or con. Her criminal law positions (particularly her Fourth Amendment views) seem a bit too pro-government for my tastes - perhaps even more so than David Souter, who she would replace.

I'd personally hoped Obama would look outside the federal appellate courts for a nominee: The current members of SCOTUS all basically have the same bio, and Sotomayor's life experience as a Latina from Brooklyn hardly trumps her life experience at Princeton, Yale, and as a functionary in the federal courts. That background has a lot more to do with shaping one's judicial perspective than how somebody spent their childhood.

My sense, though, is that Sotomayor will be easily confirmed. Indeed, her nomination appears to be less about influencing the court than avoiding a brawl in the Senate that might spill over into the coming health care battle. Color me uninspired.

UPDATE (6/8): For the most sustained, substantive critique of Sotomayor I've seen from a conservative perspective see NRO's Bench Memos (just scroll down, there's a lot, with plenty of links to other critics). You'll also find there an interesting discussion of the the merits of anonymous blogging after one of Bench Memo's contributors outed of a South Texas Law School professor blogging pseudonymously at Obsidian Wings about the Sotomayor nomination, a blawgosphere imbroglio chronicled this morning over at Simple Justice.


Anonymous said...

Ya know Grits, I'm sick of the court being filled by Yale and Harvard peeps. If they want someone with "life experience," pick a grad from the Tech Law School or to a lesser extent, maybe Baylor, St. Mary's or even a Whorn.


Anonymous said...

Yeah but picking from those already on the bench means that the administration avoids any real surprises. They have already been vetted during the original confirmation process for their earlier appointments...and it's kind of hard to change one's position if you've already approved the individual earlier during Senate confirmation hearings. As for Tech, Baylor, etc. just look at how the Republicans challenged Miers (sp?) credentials when nominated by Bush.:~)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Diane Wood is a UT law grad and was one of the four finalists interviewed, so I don't think it's out of the question a non-Ivy Leaguer could get on, but then she's also already an appellate judge on the 7th Circuit, so 8:53's point about her pre-vetting would still apply.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I'm not thrilled about this pick either but I am equally not upset by it. Maybe he could have picked someone better but who cares, at least it's not some typical conservative jurist like Sam Kent.

Anonymous said...

Grits Alert :

Anonymous said...

IMO a crucial factor why the Obama team choose Sotomayor is because she is Latina. This will help sway Latinos from the Rep side over to the Dem's. And the whole up-from-her-bootstraps story is so Rep. In the current extremely divided political climate, I think it's a good move.

Anonymous said...

When the latino/Hispanic population of the U.S. surpasses the entire population and half of all children in the US under the age of 5 is Hispanic, it is about time to have an Hispanic Judge.
I agree that I am sick of all the Harvard, Yale, etc., some folks just didn't get in or didn't even apply. If you recall, Sandra Day O'Connor was also controversial because the Repubs under Reagan did not consider her qualified.
We must look at the individual in a holistic manner. Intelligence is of course very important, but so is life experience. Comparing Sonia's life experiences with that of John Roberts, I'll pick Sonia any day.--signed a nonhispanic female

Anonymous said...

I mean to say the hispanic pop of US surpasses the entire pop of CANADA, we are not looking at a "token minority" as some seem to think.--non hispanic female