Which Sotomayor will showup?

There’s a superabundance of coverage and analysis on Judge Sonia
Sotomayor coming from all angles and possible forms of media. Some are
more interesting than others. Like…

This one from the LA Times starts from the premise that she can be ‘read’ both ways, activist judge or activist person who leaves her strong feelings outside court deliberations. And it backs up the claim with plenty of background, from an early age. Then…

From Princeton onward, a look at her life has shown, she has viewed the law as a tool for social empowerment.

But critics of Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination fear that as a
justice she would take that concern too far, siding with the underdog
as a matter of principle rather than on the basis of cleareyed legal

“It is perfectly appropriate for people to bring their life
experience to their judging,” said John C. Eastman, a former clerk to
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who now serves as dean of the
Chapman University School of Law in Orange. “But there’s a difference
between having that perspective and being able to put one thumb on the
scale to benefit one group over another.”

Others say

little of that activist sentiment is revealed in the
hundreds of cases Sotomayor has decided in her 11 years on the U.S. 2nd
Circuit Court of Appeals, raising the question of which jurist will
present herself if she is given the lifetime tenure and complete
independence of a Supreme Court seat.

Scrutiny of her some of her appeals cases has convinced some legal experts she doesn’t discriminate.

“This is a judge who does not see it as her job to fix
all the social ills in the world,” said Kevin Russell, a Washington
appellate lawyer who also has analyzed Sotomayor’s opinions.

But in her 1974 letter to the student newspaper,
Sotomayor complained that the university had no faculty members of
Puerto Rican or Mexican descent. The incoming freshman class that year
numbered 1,141. Of those, 36 were Latino. The inequities she felt she
confronted there cut her deeply, friends said.

In her junior year, Princeton tapped Sotomayor to serve on a student
committee that advised the administration on replacing an outgoing dean
dedicated to minority issues.

But she grew disillusioned with the assignment. She objected that
her committee had little power to influence the selection. In a 1974
article in the Daily Princetonian, Sotomayor was quoted as saying: “We
were token students, period. The decision was made without consulting

“What we in effect want is for the school to realize we’re not here to play patsies, we’re not a front.”

Is this a signal for concern? Could be. The confirmation hearings will be interesting.


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