President Obama on Judge Sotomayor, Background, Reaction

From the White House, “Remarks by the President in nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.”

I don’t take this decision lightly.  I’ve made it only after deep reflection and careful deliberation.  While there are many qualities that I admire in judges across the spectrum of judicial philosophy, and that I seek in my own nominee, there are few that stand out that I just want to mention.

First and foremost is a rigorous intellect — a mastery of the law, an ability to hone in on the key issues and provide clear answers to complex legal questions.  Second is a recognition of the limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge’s job is to interpret, not make, law; to approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice; a respect for precedent and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

These two qualities are essential, I believe, for anyone who would sit on our nation’s highest court.  And yet, these qualities alone are insufficient.  We need something more.  For as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”  Experience being tested by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune; experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately overcoming those barriers.  It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion; an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live.  And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court.

The White House blog provides more background:

The Law School Admission Council has a video discussing her story as part of their “Believe and Achieve: Latinos and the Law” program that is  also well worth watching. Finally, the White House also sent out the following background, giving a thorough look at Judge Sotomayor’s life and career.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement:

Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly. But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.

Our Democratic colleagues have often remarked that the Senate is not a “rubber stamp.” Accordingly, we trust they will ensure there is adequate time to prepare for this nomination, and a full and fair opportunity to question the nominee and debate her qualifications.

And this Pajamas Media post by Roger Kimball, editor of The New Criterion, summarizes the conservative case against Judge Sotomayor by citing the nominee’s most prominent statements that will draw scrutiny:

Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court, believes that the job of judges is to make the law, not uphold it.

Don’t believe me? Look at this clip from a 2005 symposium at Duke University. The Court of Appeals, said Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court, “is where policy is made.” She went on to note that she shouldn’t say that publicly — after all, cameras were rolling — but that, she said, was the truth of the matter. I hope that video clip is played early and played often. [UPDATE: I hope her 2002 comments at Berkeley about how it is appropriate for judges to draw upon their “experiences as women and people of color” in their judicial decision making are aired often as well. The more one looks into Sotomayor’s recrod, the clearer it is that, as a friend of mine put it, identity politics is her judicial philosophy.]

 

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