Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sotomayor: A Liberal Bully?

This morning President Obama nominated appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to a seat on the United States Supreme Court. She is, according to first reports, about as liberal as you can be and still get confirmed by the Senate.

So this is what conservatives warned about. Elect Obama and you'll get a radical left-winger on the Court.

Of course, the only thing worse is to nominate a moderate and get a solid liberal vote on the court--someone like retiring Justice Souter.

Actually, I'm encouraged. Here's a look at Sotomayor from New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen.

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...

Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees.

We should take this kind of talk with a grain of salt. There's a tendency for highly educated law clerks to value intellectual gifts over more mundane gifts of energy and persistence. Intellectual gifts have their place. But so do other gifts.

Still, if you asked me what I would want in a liberal Obama appointee it would be that they didn't quite get it. That they didn't know where the skeletons were buried and why.

In my view, whether the future is conservative or liberal, the past century of liberal jurisprudence is going to start getting unpacked and reversed. That's because, liberal or conservative, a lot of it is just bad law. If you were a liberal, you'd want a first-class mind to conduct the strategic retreat and save the really important legal assets in the march.

The New Haven firefighters case shows how this might play out. Judge Sotomayor was part of a panel on the case that tried to bury the case without really examining it on its merits. In other words, she and the other liberal judges on the court were engaging in a bit of liberal skulduggery to prevent the white firefighters (and one Hispanic) from getting their day in court.

Is it just to bury a case in which a municipality junked the results of a firefighters' promotion exam because it didn't promote enough blacks (even though the exam had been carefully designed to be non-discriminatory)?

When liberals long for a liberal turn for the Supreme Court, you wonder what they really want. More race and gender obsessed jurisprudence? I say: Bring It On.

Because political change comes out of rage and injustice, and the more injustice that liberals cook up the better the chance conservatives will get to build a "broad coalition" to change America for the better.

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