Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More on Sotomayor's Nomination

President Obama has now officially nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to succeed Justice David Souter when he retires from the Supreme Court later this year.

As this story continues to develop and we move closer toward her confirmation hearings, it is all but certain that there will be strong backlash from members of the right against this pick. Prior to Sotomayor's nomination, we saw an indication of the line that critics would take if she were nominated.

Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic led the way and questioned the intelligence of Sotomayor:

But despite the praise from some of her former clerks, and warm words from some of her Second Circuit colleagues, there are also many reservations about Sotomayor. Over the past few weeks, I've been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was "not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench," as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. "She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue." (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, "Will you please stop talking and let them talk?") Second Circuit judge Jose Cabranes, who would later become her colleague, put this point more charitably in a 1995 interview with The New York Times: "She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media."

Marc Hemmingway then called her "dumb and obnoxious" and then Rosen's claim was echoed by Fred Barnes and Karl Rove:

Tom Goldstein over at SCOTUS Blog has outlined the four lines of attack that will likely be leveled at Sotomayor and they include:

1. That she is not smart enough for the job
2. That she is a liberal ideologue or a "judicial activist"
3. That she is dismissive of opinions that she disagrees with
4. That she is "gruff" and "impersonable"

Goldstein indicates that all of these objections are thin, will not take hold and predicts that she will be easily confirmed.

Also worthy of note is another post by Goldstein at SCOTUS Blog in which several of her opinions from civil cases are highlighted and discussed. That post can be found here and gives a good outline of some of her opinions on various issues that she will likely be questioned on during her confirmation hearings.

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