Sotomayor could help change ivory tower of high court, but she has balance too…

I’ve been able to read a little more about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and I am kind of left feeling the same way as I did in my initial reaction, but maybe more positive.

I still think that she appears to be a good pick because she is a female – need more representation of what is for me the opposite sex on the high court – and she is Hispanic, so this would add some additional so-called minority representation as well.

In my initial reaction post I said that I was concerned about a ruling she voted in favor of that struck down the claim of reverse discrimination by several white (to include one Hispanic) firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. They had taken a promotion exam, but since blacks did not score high enough, it was decided by a court that the test must have been discriminatory and on that grounds all applications for promotion were thrown out. Sotomayor, sitting as an appellate justice, sided with the ruling to uphold that decision. Some of her supporters argue that lest anyone have any problem with the reasoning there that all she really did was uphold the existing case law on discrimination as it now stands. That would give her the out that she might not necessarily agree that the whole thing was fair (although we don’t have any idea what she thinks on that). The Case in question, Ricci vs. DeStehano, as it happens, is now before the Supreme Court.

From reading some background on her various case decisions I see that she has made some decisions that would tend to please liberals and some that would tend to please conservatives or that she has decided both in favor of plaintiffs and in favor of defendants. She did work once as a prosecutor.

Already some conservative Republicans are jumping on a quote from her that the appellate courts are “where policy is made”. The idea here is that such shows her to be an activist who sees the proper role of the judiciary as making law, not just deciding law. But I read more about that quote and it said she was talking to college students and advising them that those who are interested in public policy often gravitate toward the appellate courts because, yes, that is where policy is made. She even added, somewhat jokingly, but not really, that she realized that she should not be saying that – but that is the way that it is.

While personally I feel that appellate court judges or all judges need to stick as close the written or decided law (and just how did it get decided?) as they can, I also know that they have to deal in interpretation of the law and that if there was no interpretation to be done there would be little need for judges in the first place. One can get carried away, though.

From reading and listening to the various reactions since the president announced his decision, I can see that there is likely to be strong opposition to Sotomayor. But with all of her experience – she has a lot – and the fact that she seems to have a fairly balanced record, even if she might be inclined to lean toward liberal decisions, and the fact that the Republicans need all the support that they can get and will once again be shooting themselves in the foot if they alienate females and Hispanics (and I acknowledge that not all in those two groups think alike), I think she has a more than excellent chance to win conformation. And, if nothing else, the Democrats may just have more votes.

Sotomayor is 54 and was born in New York. She currently sits on the U.S. Second District Court of Appeals. He parents were from Puerto Rico (which of course is part of the United States) and her father died when she was young. She lived in a housing project in the Bronx and was raised by a working mother. So, humble beginnings, some street smarts, and the fact that she has long years of experience that include a time as a prosecutor and long service as a justice, to me gives her a unique set of experiences that would be a valuable addition to the Supreme Court that can be somewhat of an ivory tower.

So, at this point, I see her nomination and likely confirmation a positive.


In my original post in reaction to the Sotomayor nomination I erroneously stated that minority firefighters in the Ricci vs. DeStephano case had been promoted over white firefighters when in fact no one was promoted. I corrected that in an updated post. But I like to make sure I clear things up.

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