Judge Sonia Sotomayor — The Judicial Female Obama
Having not yet researched Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s record, it is premature for me to determine whether or not I personally would support or oppose Judge Sotomayor’s nomination. Of course, we could lean toward denial of an endorsement of her if we took two simple statements made by her instead of looking at her record in total (from a NY Times article):
She also once said at a conference that a “court of appeals is where policy is made,” a statement that has drawn criticism from conservatives who saw it as a sign of judicial activism.
And from Michelle Malkin’s site, she has the infamous quote by Judge Sotomayor at a 2002 speech given at Berkeley where she stated:
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
I believe it is unfair to take these two statements from a 17 year judicial career without looking in detail at her record on cases. Of course early reports indicate that her judgements in cases in the 2nd District Appellate Court have not been sound as four of them have been overturned by the Supreme Court, but we must look at these cases in detail before offering judgement.
What I believe is more compelling is the appearance to me that President Obama picked Judge Sotomayor over his other choices because he believes she mirrors his view of the role of the Supreme Court Justice with respect to the Constitution. In addition, I believe her personal story has many parallels to his which intrigues President Obama and makes him think she would judge cases as he would. Let’s begin with the personal parallels.
Both were born minorities. Both lost their fathers at a very young age: President Obama’s through abandonment and Judge Sotomayor’s through death. Both were educated in Ivy League Schools. Both have elusive records of their public service life. President Obama has chosen to hide many of his most important records such as his college transcripts and Illinois State Senate voting record while Judge Sotomayor has been brief in her opinions offered in controversial rulings. In other words, looking at the records of each, it is difficult to determine a clear picture of each individual and their corresponding views. When you view these simple facts, it is easy to surmize that President Obama feels a kinship with Judge Sotomayor. But beyond this kinship, it seems to me that Obama also sees Judge Sotomayor as a person who would rule as Obama would if he sat on the Supreme Court. First let us review how Obama views the role of the Supreme Court Justice and how they should rule on cases.
In an earlier piece on this site, I wrote about President Obama’s judicial views as follows:
In the last Presidential Debate this subject of the Constitution came up in the form of the judges the two candidates would appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court. Senator Obama told us in essence that he believes the Constitution of the United States of America is a “living” document and therefore would appoint judges in this vain. In essence, he talked about judges putting on their 21st century hats and interpreting the Constitution in modern day America. Let’s look at his exact words to be sure:
“[W]e need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”
This school of thought is typically referred to as a philosophy that the Constitution is a “living” document. As George Neumayr pointed out in his October 29th article in The American Spectator entitled “Obama’s Living-Will Constitution,” the reason this judicial philosophy is dangerous is as follows:
Why not? He is on record saying that judges need to view the Constitution through the prism of political correctness <snip>
This is creeping tyranny cast as “change.” The whole point of a written constitution with prescribed procedures for its official change is to prevent this tyranny and the inevitable chaos that erupts after the people realize the meaningless character of law under such arrogance. After all, if the “living” constitutionalists don’t have to listen to the words of the framers and can insert new meanings into the place of those words, the people, by the same logic, don’t have to listen either and can reject those new meanings just as lawlessly.
When President Obama speaks of selecting his judges based on their ability to empathize with litigants when ruling combined with Judge Sotomayor’s comment that a wise Latina women would make better judgements seems to jive. It appears that President Obama thinks he has found his perfect empathetic judge. I think, however, we act hastily if we take these two comments and conclude they are in sync without looking at Judge Sotomayor’s record. The Obama Administration has not produced a sound record when vetting individuals, and it is possible that President Obama thinks Judge Sotomayor is in sync with his views of judicial activism, but if we look at her record it is possible that we may find she is not a judicial activist. We have to look at the record, then we can make the judgement. I think it is quite clear that President Obama views Judge Sotomayor as his philosophical judicial female equivalent. The important point at this juncture is whether or not President Obama is correct.