Today, President Obama is announcing his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
Judge Sotomayor has a compelling story. According to the AP (see here):
Sotomayor is a self-described “Newyorkrican” who grew up in a Bronx housing project after her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico. She has dealt with diabetes since age 8 and lost her father at age 9, growing up under the care of her mother in humble surroundings. As a girl, inspired by the Perry Mason television show, she knew she wanted to be a judge.
A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, a former prosecutor and private attorney, Sotomayor became a federal judge for the Southern District of New York in 1992.
As a judge, she has a bipartisan pedigree. She was first appointed by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush, then named an appeals judge by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
At her Senate confirmation hearing more than a decade ago, she said, “I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it.”
As far as her judicial philosophy goes, I’m sure we’ll find out more about it in the coming weeks. Here is a good article that details some of her court decisions.
From my perspective, her record is a mixture of good and bad. On a positive note, she dismissed a pro-choice group’s challenge to President Bush’s Mexico City Policy, which prohibited overseas recipients of federal funds to promote abortion. So at least she’s not a pro-abortion fanatic! She also upheld a Muslim inmate’s right to practice his religion. I like that because of my own background as a religious minority. When I practiced Armstrongism, I often went against the grain of society in my desire to obey what I considered “God’s command.” It will be good to have someone on the Supreme Court who understands that predicament.
As a person with Asperger’s, I’m concerned about the rights of the disabled, yet I also don’t want the government to impose unreasonable burdens on businesses. On disability rights, Sotomayor seems to side with the plaintiff most of the time, but she’s not ridiculous about it, for she’s somewhat of a stickler in terms of the law.
Sotomayor does look at the decisions of courts in other countries, and that will be of concern to conservatives. At the same time, the example the article cites of her doing this involved interpretation of an international agreement, which was devised in part by people in other countries. So I don’t think it’s wrong to look at their original intent!
Her record on gun rights could be better. My understanding is that she thinks the Second Amendment applies to the federal government, not the states.
I also don’t care for her record on Affirmative Action. For example, in a prominent case, she upheld New Haven’s invalidation of a firefighters’ exam because not enough minorities did well on it. Obama is looking for a judge who understands how court decisions affect real life. Well, how about the effect of her decision on the firefighters who didn’t get promoted?
One conservative article I read called her a “bully,” but that doesn’t concern me. I’m sure Scalia can take it!
Overall, I think that Sotomayor is a good choice for Obama. Liberals tried to encourage George W. Bush to appoint her as his replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor, and I wouldn’t have liked that, since I wanted Bush to appoint a conservative. But, considering that we don’t have a conservative President right now, Sotomayor looks fine, at least right now.