A Supreme Court

It appears that Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will be added to our entourage of Supreme Court justices by the end of the month. The Senate Judiciary Committee has pledged to cast their vote on the matter before they adjourn for recess on August 7th.

I was hoping for a more open discussion about the nominee’s thoughts on judicial activism, a practice I believe is present throughout the American judicial system, for better or for worse. When Sotomayor’s nomination was first made public, it was her infamous comment on the capabilities of “a wise Latina woman”, her rejection of a white fireman’s reverse-discrimination lawsuit, and President Obama’s decree for a sentimental, sympathetic sort of Supreme Court judge that took the limelight. Republicans repeatedly criticized Obama’s past assertion that he wanted a justice with “the quality of empathy,” and Sotomayor disavowed Obama’s statement as a senator that some decisions would be determined by “what is in a judge’s heart.”
However, in the past four days of testimony, Sonia has not said much of anything. With an underplayed apology for “offending some people” Sonia was able to sidestep any more challenges about her previous comments on racial or personal prejudices. She did an excellent job of coming off as a woman without much opinion on anything at all; a judge who is nuetral and, “pretty much […] mainstream”, in the words of  Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.  It seems that she is an easy-in for the nation’s highest court, and the past four days have been more of a political tradition than anything to write home about. 

If confirmed, Sotomayor would become the first justice appointed by a Democratic president in 15 years. SO. 

What do we know about Sotomayor?   From arguably the most progressive President in decades, I wonder how much more “nuetral and mainstream” I can take. Nonetheless, Obama and Sotomayor have both done an excellent (dull) job of rocking no boats and stepping on very few toes. 

We might know that  Justice Scalia wants to criminalize abortion,  or that Justice Breyer is a strong advocate of federal gun regulation, but as Dahlia Lithwick from Slate points out, “What we haven’t learned is anything more about her views on guns, gay marriage, abortion, military tribunals, or eminent domain. We may actually know less about her views on these matters today than we did going into these hearings.”


The judge’s role, Sotomayor said, is ”not to make law. It is to apply the law” — echoing a common Republican applause line used against judicial activism. The law must command “the result in every case” she states again.

Personally, I remain skeptical of any impartiality in the context of power. Nonetheless, for those Americans who are still waiting for Obama to start the Revolution, Sonia Sotomayor, for the time being seems to want to just…do her job.


~ by Vy on July 16, 2009.

One Response to “A Supreme Court”

  1. A podcast on judicial activism versus judicial restraint would be an excellent idea for a long-distance podcast. Is this possible?

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