Senate confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor have begun and the first day was a stereotypical dog & pony show of left-wing / right-wing ideological debate, but for those who not only heard it but actually listened to what was being said, it was an education in the purpose of the Supreme Court and its critical role in protecting America’s foundation of Constitutional freedoms. It also provided insight into how various Congress critters view and/or defend them.
Democratic senators played to lowest common denominator “enquiring minds” by touting Sotomayor’s overcoming of her “life struggles” as something worthy of an Oscar, while Republican senators spoke to the seriousness of the undertaking for which she has been nominated.
In my mind, that she “done good” for herself is no different than what has been done by millions of Americans. Indeed, this opportunity to make good is one of the reasons America has been the dream of people around the world since her birth. This great nation contains far more rags-to-riches stories than it does stories of unearned “privilege” such as the born-to-wealth Kennedy offspring or the married-into-wealth types like Pelosi, Sanford, etc. That Sotomayor had to earn her way mirrors the path taken by the vast majority of us, and that’s a good thing. It is the work she has done while following her own, personal path that raises questions about her ability to manifest the blind objectivity required to, as she stated in her remarks to the Senate, maintain “fidelity to the law”.
What she also chose to say in her remarks to the Senate give some insight as to her perspectives as much as do rightful concerns over the opinions she has expressed over the years when not sitting on the bench.
Over the past three decades, I have seen our judicial system from a number of different perspectives — as a big-city prosecutor, as a corporate litigator, as a trial judge and as an appellate judge. My first job after law school was as an assistant district attorney in New York. There, I saw children exploited and abused. I felt the pain and suffering of families torn apart by the needless death of loved ones. I saw and learned the tough job law enforcement has in protecting the public. In my next legal job, I focused on commercial, instead of criminal, matters. I litigated issues on behalf of national and international businesses and advised them on matters ranging from contracts to trademarks.
What she tells us here is that her past three decades of experience includes a good deal of trial experience that is, in my mind, limited in scope. She worked as a “big-city prosecutor”, worked as a prosecutor in private practice, and then “litigated issues” and “advised” in what has been shown to be, again, a prosecutorial perspective. Simply put, she’s made her life’s work going after the bad guys, whether “bad” is defined as a breaker of laws on the books or a breaker of moral law (e.g. the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, now known as “LatinoJustice PRLDEF“, aka “press 1 for English”). The thing that stands out for me as a glaring ommission that would perhaps have perhaps given her some of the real “wisdom” she claims is that she has never sat at the defense table as the protector of an accused criminal’s rights.
Various analyses of her rulings involving discrimination suits find her quick to dismiss the vast majority of them though only one of them involved having to actually look at the issue of racial discrimination itself (versus ruling because of the more usual legal technicalities). Whether this is good or bad isn’t yet clear to me but others say it shows her lack of prejudice. It does explain to me, in part however, why she did not do anything more than coast through the appellate appeal in Ricci vs. New Haven.
So what does one make of a life perspective being one in which fighting against discrimination by whites has been the primary mission? Right now, Sonia Sotomayor’s work remains subject to the collective wisdom and avowed Constitutional and blind defense of the United States Supreme Court. While she has mostly been a herd animal in her appellate decisions, with said herd decisions being overturned more often than not by the Supreme Court, this then unfortunately means there is no evidence to say she would uphold the judicial vow if put on the Supreme Court bench.
This is troubling.
As troubling on the backpedaling she’s now doing about her “wise Latina” comment being nothing more than a bad joke. A joke so bad she’s repeated it ad nauseum throughout the years like it’s some personal mantra.