.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

What Would People Think?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You Want to Draw Your Own Opinion on Judge Sotomayor?

Then you should look at her opinions.

The ever-useful, and relatively unbiased, SCOTUS blog has summaries of her decisions here, here, here, here, and here.

That's a lot to read and, frankly, I haven't had the time to go through it all. But, from what I've read, I get the impression that she's a relatively unflashy left-of-center justice. Pretty much in the mold of the justice she'd be replacing.


  • Hmm, I totally commented on your blog two days ago and it didn't post -- maybe I am getting rusty :)

    Anyway, all I said was that after reading both unbiased and unbiased views, I pretty much concur with you. I don't personally support the idea of "empathy" in a justice, because I feel it leads to institutionalizing racial and gender preferences, but obviously we have to take this nomination in the current context -- the president gets to appoint justices whose views he agrees with.

    Conservatives are starting this fight down 10 votes and having not established a clear message despite knowing well in advance that Sotomayor was a leading candidate. Her only ruling that even has a chance of generating widespread opposition is this one, and even then she is merely part of an unsigned opinion. I think conservatives' best chance is to adopt a position like "We are delighted by the idea of a Latina woman on the Court. It's unfortunate that she is so far to the left, but we recognize that these are the spoils that go to the victor in his first nomination, and we will look to see a much more moderate nomination should the next vacancy open up during this president's term."

    Point being, I hope this nomination process is over as soon as possible so no one embarrasses themselves and we can all get back to our normal junk news cycle.

    By Blogger Chad, at 5/28/2009 9:19 AM  

  • The only relevant stat on Sotomayor as far as I'm concerned is that she spurred on the end of the 1994 baseball strike. So I say she's earned her spot on the Court.

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/28/2009 10:03 AM  

  • I'm sure that, like every other Justice on the Court, I'll agree with her sometimes and disagree with her others.

    The only thing that gives me a little concern is that one quote about how the richness of being a wise latina woman means she can decide cases better than a white male. I've got no problem with an acknowledgement that people's backgrounds influence the way they look at cases, but in that quote she goes way beyond that simple idea...

    Also, does anyone really buy the identity politics thing anymore? That this cements democratic support by hispanic voters, and all that stuff... I though we were moving quickly past that idea...

    By Blogger Matthew B. Novak, at 5/28/2009 11:54 AM  

  • Chad: Yeah, that particular property rights case by Sotomayor sucks, although maybe she was just following the Supreme Court's terrible Kelo decision.

    This property rights case by Sotomayor is slightly better:


    Matt: In downtown Atlanta where I work, there are a whole lot of poor African Americans. And a whole lot of them still wear shirts celebrating Obama's election, often with pics of Obama juxtaposed with Martin Luther King. The message is clear: They are thrilled to have an African-American president BECAUSE he is African-American. I suspect the same may be true in some communities re: Sotomayor. So, no, Identity Politics is far from over.

    I guess the true test will come when someone who is a minority makes some decision which is unpopular with a whole lot of the people who part of the same race. Will they stick with him/her because of his race alone? Time will tell.

    By Blogger Ben, at 5/28/2009 3:32 PM  

  • Ben -

    I guess the point I was trying to make was whether or not anyone should buy the identity politics thing, not whether some people actually do. Is it a good thing that people like Obama just because he's black? Would it be a good thing for people to like a president because he/she was white?

    And what about Thomas? I don't hear too many minorities celebrating his SCOTUS tenure... maybe this proves the point?

    By Blogger Matthew B. Novak, at 5/28/2009 9:12 PM  

  • From what I've heard, the difference with Thomas is the African-American community doesn't feel the same sort of kinship with him and his worldview than they do with Obama. So although identity politics definitely plays a role, it doesn't tell the whole story. I imagine that, while the Latin community will likely be pleased at the nomination of a Hispanic for Supreme Court justice, their happiness will fluctuate as they learn more about her judicial stances. I would venture to guess they'll probably like her more than, say, Alberto Gonzales.

    There's a similar argument for women. Certainly they responded more to Hillary Clinton last year than they would have a man with the exact same credentials and views, but they retaliated against Palin.

    So ultimately, I'll put it this way: the Democrats may have "cemented Hispanic support", but if they pass stricter immigration laws, for example, (or even if they fail to pass comprehensive reform) they may find that support dwindling rapidly. I guess identity politics gets people's attention, but you do have to follow it with substance.

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/29/2009 10:11 AM  

  • So here's the big question: the hispanic community in this country is largely Catholic and pro-life. What happens if Sotomayor is [predicatably] pro-choice?

    By Blogger Matthew B. Novak, at 5/29/2009 10:28 AM  

  • Matt, I'd wager that the percentage of voters that are single-issue abortion voters is rather small. Single digits, 10 at highest. So I doubt it'll matter much.

    Anyway, the discussion with Sotomayor and identity politics is crap, since she's shown more than enough willingness to dismiss unproven discrimination claims against sympathetic defendants (see Ben's first link). And Matt, in context, all Sotomayor really said was that people who have experienced discrimination will be more likely to see it when it happens, and that's why a diversity of perspectives on a judicial panel is a good thing. Dave pointed out to me that someone who has experienced discrimination would be more likely to read some into an incident where none exists... which is why we need a diversity of perspectives in the first place. Seems reasonable to me.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 5/29/2009 3:11 PM  

  • Even in context I think she went far beyond just saying diversity was a good thing.

    By Blogger Matthew B. Novak, at 5/29/2009 8:50 PM  

  • I'd agree with both Jeff and Matt as far as the statement. I understand the sentiment she was going for, but her expression of it was extremely poorly worded. Regardless, everything I hear makes it seem like all we're doing is replacing Souter with a female Hispanic Souter. Hell, has anyone noted how similar their names are?

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/30/2009 10:16 AM  

  • "I guess the point I was trying to make was whether or not anyone should buy the identity politics thing, not whether some people actually do. Is it a good thing that people like Obama just because he's black? Would it be a good thing for people to like a president because he/she was white?"

    This is an interesting question. My gut reaction is to say "of course not!" But I'm willing to take a stab at going with something other than my normal reaction on this.

    There's at least one very valid reason that works for the "hooray for a black President" that does not work in reverse, and is - in my book - not racist at all.

    That we had never had a black President, and that we do have a history of institutionalized racism in the country could have the very real effect of making other black people feel like they were not full participants in the "American Dream" simply because of the color of their skin. To see that perceived barrier broken down legitimately gives hope to those who may have felt cut off from full participation in society. It's not my view, but it's one that I think a reasonable person could hold.

    There are, of course, limitations to this view that I think are important. I think that to the extent that said group says "Well, Clarence Thomas doesn't count because of the views he holds, I think it invalidates that argument. At that point, it's not really about the color of someone's skin, but about the beliefs, attitudes, or actions that a person takes that may bar them from success, and I don't believe that skin color should ever be an excuse to act in a socially destructive way and then blame society when you reap what you have sown.

    So - is it okay to be happy that there is a black president? Sure. I don't share in it too much, but that's because I didn't believe there to be any substantive barrier to be overcome.

    If the roles were completely reversed, and the nation had a long unending streak of black presidents and we had just elected our first white president, I might feel a little extra pride in that. But I'd feel that way if a Nevadan were elected President (and I admit that I'm slightly more sympathetic to Harry Reid than I would be if he were from another state), and the common thread in each instance is the rarity of it - the sense of being a part of something special. White presidents in the US are hardly a rarity, and are thus not great sources for pride, if only because it's so typical.

    By Blogger -Dave, at 6/04/2009 1:10 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home