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Obama picks Sotomayer for SCOTUS
May 26, 2009 5:59 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times is reporting that President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Justice David Souter's replacement on the Supreme Court. Sotomayer, currently a judge in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, will (if confirmed by the Senate) be only the third female and the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog predicted Sotomayer as one of Obama's three most likely candidates back in January.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (153 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nothing against Goldstein, but Sotomayor (not Sotomayer) has been identified for years as a potential SCOTUS pick under a Democratic administration, long before last January.
posted by Slap Factory at 6:02 AM on May 26, 2009


Just a note: Some people dispute the "first Hispanic Justice" bit. Benjamin Cardozo was of Portuguese descent.
posted by Plutor at 6:04 AM on May 26, 2009


Also, she would not be the first Hispanic justice.

We passed that milestone more than 75 years ago.
posted by Slap Factory at 6:05 AM on May 26, 2009


Huh, Bush Sr nominated her to the US District Court. I'm sure rightwing nutjobs will now be silenced about her supposed ultra-liberality.

My question is, her other diversities aside, is she Yet Another Catholic?
posted by DU at 6:13 AM on May 26, 2009


The anchor on CNN just asked her guest, a former clerk for Sotomayer, "have you ever seen her wrestle... (pauses) with a serious issue?"

That was weird.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:14 AM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Despite the flap about her being the first Hispanic chosen, she still is a woman, right? That won't change?
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:16 AM on May 26, 2009


(The Wikipedia page wants to link me to the "Puerto Rico portal". I assume that portal is rich in information.)

...Sotomayor was rated..."moderate" or "neutral,"...in a survey by the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary of courtroom lawyers regarding the political views of the judges they encounter in their litigation.

Sadly, this really is a big leftward shift.
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Scotusblog has more useful posts, like the fairly detailed summaries of Sotomayor's opinions as an appellate judge in civil cases.
posted by mediareport at 6:20 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cardozo's parents were Jewish, weren't they? Do Jews living in Portugal count as Hispanic?
posted by mediareport at 6:23 AM on May 26, 2009


eh, would have loved to see him throw up a liberal firecracker but she sounds eminently qualified. Here's hoping she's a sleeper liberal and gut punches Scalia.
posted by slapshot57 at 6:25 AM on May 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


DU: "I'm sure rightwing nutjobs will now be silenced about her supposed ultra-liberality."

They can always say she's fat.

Within hours after the news broke that Souter was resigning, concerns arose that Kagan and Sotomayor might be too fat to replace him. A commentator on the site DemConWatch.com noted that of the three most-mentioned candidates “the oldest (federal judge Diane Wood) is the only one who looks healthy,” while Kagan and Sotomayor “are quite overweight. That’s a risk factor that they may not last too long on the court because of their health.”
posted by Joe Beese at 6:25 AM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Benjamin Cardozo was of Portuguese descent.

I was under the impression (and apparently so is the Federal Government) that this in fact means he wasn't Latino.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:26 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do Jews living in Portugal count as Hispanic?

Nobody living in Portugal would automatically "count as" Hispanic, and ditto for Brazil (which actually is in Latin America), since Hispanic = from a Spanish-speaking culture, and usually more specifically from the Western Hemisphere.
posted by kittyprecious at 6:29 AM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR: "I was under the impression (and apparently so is the Federal Government) that this in fact means he wasn't Latino."

Wow, that's strange that the Census doesn't include Portuguese or Brazilian people as Hispanic. Although that Wikipedia article does say that the DoT and SBA do. So it's at best a cloudy issue.
posted by Plutor at 6:30 AM on May 26, 2009


Maybe this is silly, but my test of "Hispanic-ness" is determined by the Treaty of Tordesillas. In other words, Puerto Rico:Hispanic, Portugal:Not Hispanic.

But that's just me.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 6:33 AM on May 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


I want to state categorically that Benjamin Cardozo was the first Portuguese U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:33 AM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't really care if she is the first Hispanic on the court, but I do wonder what she thinks about Roe v. Wade.
posted by RussHy at 6:34 AM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Probably also worth linking, for folks who missed it a few weeks ago, the reactions from Greenwald, John Cole and Dissenting Justice to a pathetically unfair, anonymously sourced hatchet job on Sotomayor from Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic (via Talkleft).
posted by mediareport at 6:36 AM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


My test of "Hispanic-ness" is determined by the Tasty of Tortillas.
posted by DU at 6:37 AM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Cardozo is "Hispanic" in that his roots are in Roman Hispania but that strikes me as a really technical definition. It's arguably a valid definition of the term, and maybe even the classical one, but it's also a definition that's largely irrelevant to how the term is used in American ethno-racial discourse.

The term "Hispanic," as most people use it, refers to people who are immigrants from or have roots in Spanish-speaking countries, usually Latin America (I don't even understand "Hispanic" as referring to people from Spain in the racialized sense that it's used today--within the American racial discourse system I would say people from Spain are just Spanish, but that's another conversation.) I don't think I would use Hispanic to... well, I don't think I would use Hispanic at all, honestly, but if I had to use it, I don't think I'd use it to refer to a Brazilian. And people from Portugal are not Hispanic in this sense, but Portuguese, or of Portuguese descent.

This is not to say that Cardozo's appointment was not significant with respect to the history of race in the U.S., or to diminish his accomplishments as a jurist or anything else, but I think calling him "Hispanic" is playing a semantic game, using a word that has both a classical definition that has no real social relevance attached to it and also a modern definition with a lot of social relevance attached to it, that distracts from the true significance of the Sotomayor appointment in terms of representation of underrepresented groups.
posted by Kosh at 6:39 AM on May 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


I think "Sotomayor" is a really cool name, irregardless of her weight or lack of Portugality.
posted by Mister_A at 6:40 AM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


RedState never disappoints...

Affirmative action President selects affirmative action judge. And the great lowering of standards continues apace.

Nobody’s arguing her legal credentials; I will admit they are incredibly impressive. What I am arguing is her temperament for being a Supreme Court justice, which is a position that it seems manifestly obvious that she’s not cut out for.

Seems like she makes up for being intellectually shallow by yelling louder.

Make some statements right now on Sotomayor’s Guevarista tendencies and get some stuff on the record, marvel at Arlen’s retreat into Scottish Law, but don’t fall for Obama’s bear trap with Hispanic voters.

posted by Joe Beese at 6:41 AM on May 26, 2009


Yeah, I just visited RS to check their ravings as well. Two main categories:

1) We know nothing about her!
2) She's intellectually shallow!

Ah projection, is there anything you can't reveal about the speaker?
posted by DU at 6:44 AM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


For RussHy:

Abortion Rights: Although Sotomayor has not had a case dealing directly with abortion rights, she wrote the opinion in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, 304 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2002), a challenge to the “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibited foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions. An abortion rights group (along with its attorneys) brought claimed that the policy violated its First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights. Relying on the Second Circuit’s earlier decision in Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Agency for International Development, which dealt with a virtually identical claim, Sotomayor’s opinion rejected the group’s First Amendment claim on the merits. Turning to the plaintiffs’ due process claim, Sotomayor held that they lacked standing because they alleged only a harm to foreign organizations, rather than themselves. Sotomayor held that the plaintiffs did have standing with regard to their equal protection claim, but she ultimately held that the claim failed under rational basis review because the government “is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position” with public funds.
posted by mediareport at 6:44 AM on May 26, 2009


How much you want to bet that if Sotomayor weren't Hispanic nobody would be throwing around the term "Guevarista"?

(Then again, it is RedState, so nobody is throwing around the term...)
posted by Bromius at 6:44 AM on May 26, 2009


Jesus, Joe, linking Red State is just dumb.
posted by mediareport at 6:45 AM on May 26, 2009


I'm just waiting for the local news site comment threads to explode. With the anti-immigration rhetoric out here, anything remotely Hispanic gets the commenters in a huge tizzy. (Somehow, even though they just claim they are opposed to illegal immigration, they sure spend a lot of time attacking pretty much anyone with a Spanish-sounding surname.) Then they get mad when someone calls them bigoted. Today oughta be fun.
posted by azpenguin at 6:48 AM on May 26, 2009


What's wrong with linking RedState? A couple of clicks from here to there isn't going to amount to anything, and it's good to know how the racist fear-mongers are spinning this so I can be ready for my next family reunion.
posted by Mister_A at 6:54 AM on May 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


RedState never disappoints...

I've never actually seen RedState before today, and after viewing it, I can only say what I assume you said the first time you saw it.

Jesus F. Christ, what the hell is wrong with these people?
posted by aftermarketradio at 6:55 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Times also printed an article this morning on Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, whom they suggest was not considered for the SCOTUS because her ideological positions are too liberal.

Karlan recently co-published a book which examines the US Constitution as a living document: Keeping Faith with the American Constitution (FAQ). The book is available as a free download (pdf) from the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. An interview with her on the topic can be seen here.

One of her three co-authors, (Professor Christopher Schroeder of the Duke University School of Law,) has been nominated by the White House to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy.
posted by zarq at 7:04 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love it when C-SPAN lets viewers call in to give their opinions on x topic. Someone just called in to say that she's "disturbed" by this pick. Since Obama's cabinet is all Bill Clinton's people, this Sotomayor pick was *their* choice, not Obama's and this is highly disturbing. That's it. No opinion on Sotomayor's past decisions, just that the Clenis is the invisible guiding hand in Obama's administration.
posted by NoMich at 7:05 AM on May 26, 2009


My understanding of the word "hispanic" as related to minority status in the United States is that it refers to those people in the new world who were colonized by Spain. Actual spaniards and portuguese are not hispanic - they are european by that definition. A quick reading of the Wikipedia article on this bears this out. The spanish, however are "hispanic" under the broadest definition of the word.
posted by lordrunningclam at 7:09 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actual spaniards and portuguese are not hispanic - they are european by that definition.

Plus even if you consider Spaniards "Hispanic", why would you say the same for Portugal? They don't even speak the same language. I know that Portugal shares a lot of history and a border with Spain, but come on. So does France.
posted by delmoi at 7:17 AM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am astonished, seriously, by the fat thing. I have experience with both of the allegedly "fat" short list nominees (Kagan was my Con Law professor at U of C and I litigated a series of hideously complex related cases before Judge Sotomayor when she was a District Court Judge) and, leaving aside the fact that it's totally fucking irrelevant, neither of them holds a candle to a certain other Justice who came under fire from his opponents for being a purported intellectual lightweight and affirmative action pick.

I guess it's no surprise we don't hear about this when men are the nominees because women are so much more likely than men to die of heart disease. . . .wait, what?
posted by The Bellman at 7:19 AM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, she would not be the first Hispanic justice.

We passed that milestone more than 75 years ago.


Not to nit-pick, but I don't think Edward James Olmos was even born 75 years ago.

Oh, wait, you mean actual politics, and not just stuff on the teevee? BO-RING.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:21 AM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Karlan recently co-published a book which examines the US Constitution as a living document:

Scalia, Roberts, and Alito also believe the Constitution is a living document, but living in a zombie-like state of decrepitude, similar to Mr. Burns on the Simpsons.
posted by jonp72 at 7:21 AM on May 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


..leaving aside the fact that it's totally fucking irrelevant, neither of them holds a candle to a certain other Justice who came under fire from his opponents for being a purported intellectual lightweight and affirmative action pick.

Not to mention the fact that wouldn't conservatives be HAPPY to have Obama nominate a judge that will kick the bucket soon? They should really object when he nominates a 30-40 year old health nut.
posted by DU at 7:24 AM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wait, there is a fat thing? As in that she is too fat to be on the Supreme Court? Being fat didn't seem to get in the way of Taft being Chief Justice.
posted by Tullius at 7:28 AM on May 26, 2009


Live stream for those interested.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 7:30 AM on May 26, 2009


Republican A: OK, it's Sotomayor. What are our talking points against her?

Republican B: Well, there are signs that she's left-leaning and likely to support policies we oppose, like abortion rights and affirmative action. We have credible arguments against those positions and could stake out a principled position against her nomination.

Rebpulican C: She's a stupid fat bitch!

Republican A: You both raise good points. Hey, this is a big-tent party, so let's throw it all out there. What's the worst that could happen?
posted by brain_drain at 7:37 AM on May 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Tullius- True, but Taft was down to a relatively healthy 250 as Chief Justice after skirting 300 in the heady days of his presidency.

Can we create a unit of Justice weight called "the Taft"? "Too fat?! But Sotomayor weighs in at a mere .7 Tafts! Thomas is already 1.1 Tafts!"
posted by Bromius at 7:40 AM on May 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


Bush Sr nominated her to the US District Court.
"Politico's Glenn Thrush reminds readers that five current Republican senators -- Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), Orrin Hatch (UT), Richard Lugar (IN), and Olympia Snowe (ME) -- bucked their party to vote to confirm Sotomayor to the Second Circuit in 1998. However, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Minority Whip John Kyl (AZ), ranking Judiciary Committee member Jeff Sessions (AL) and John McCain (AZ) were among the 28 Republicans who voted to block her confirmation. View the 1998 Senate roll call vote here." *
posted by ericb at 7:44 AM on May 26, 2009


Joe Beese noted: They can always say she's fat.

Un.fucking.real.

At The Washington Monthly, a commentator claimed to have employed a more scientifically rigorous method: “To all the short-sighted libs who are clamoring for the youngest-possible nominee... Right idea, wrong methodology. You want someone who will serve the longest, i.e. with the greatest remaining life expectancy—and that involves more than simple age. I tried assessing their respective health prospects, and ruled out all who even border on overweight. Best choice: Kim McLane Wardlaw, whose ectomorphitude reflects her publicly known aerobic-exercise habits.”

(Wardlaw’s “ectomorphitude” also gets rave reviews at legal gossip site Underneath Their Robes, which describes her as "Heather Locklear in a black robe. This blond Hispanic hottie boasts a fantastic smile and an incredible body, showcased quite nicely by her elegant ensembles.")
Yes girls, it doen't matter how smart you are, what matters is how you look.
posted by dejah420 at 7:47 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's just like MeFi to spend more time arguing over the definition of Hispanic than examining her legal qualifications, and of course her weight gets tossed in too. Sheesh, and you complain about Red State?
posted by caddis at 7:47 AM on May 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


Republican A: OK, it's Sotomayor. What are our talking points against her?

Republican B: Well, there are signs that she's left-leaning and likely to support policies we oppose, like abortion rights and affirmative action. We have credible arguments against those positions and could stake out a principled position against her nomination.

Rebpulican C: She's a stupid fat bitch!

Republican A: You both raise good points. Hey, this is a big-tent party, so let's throw it all out there. What's the worst that could happen?
Republican C forgot to mention that she's an illegal immigrant.
posted by Flunkie at 7:49 AM on May 26, 2009


Scotusblog has more useful posts...
"Last week, the well-respected SCOTUS Blog underscored the historic nature of a Sotomayor nomination and warned Republicans that it will be 'hopeless' to try to block her nomination. Politically, such attacks risk “exacting a very significant political cost among Hispanics and independent voters generally.” A look at some of the likely conservative claims:

Opponents’ first claim — likely stated obliquely and only on background – will be that Judge Sotomayor is not smart enough for the job. This is a critical ground for the White House to capture. … The objective evidence is that Sotomayor is in fact extremely intelligent. Graduating at the top of the class at Princeton is a signal accomplishment. Her opinions are thorough, well-reasoned, and clearly written. Nothing suggests she isn’t the match of the other Justices. [...]

The second claim — and this one will be front and center — will be the classic resort to ideology: that Judge Sotomayor is a liberal ideologue and 'judicial activist.' … There is no question that Sonia Sotomayor would be on the left of this Supreme Court, just not the radical left. Our surveys of her opinions put her in essentially the same ideological position as Justice Souter. [...]

The third claim – related to the second – will be that Judge Sotomayor is unprincipled or dismissive of positions with which she disagrees. … There just isn’t any remotely persuasive evidence that Judge Sotomayor acts lawlessly or anything of the sort." *
posted by ericb at 7:50 AM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I voted for Obama I had no illusions. I was not sucked in by the hype, I knew (as he was claiming otherwise) that he'd diplomatically back-pedal on several issues I cared about and he'd have little-to-no impact on the status quo in Iraq.

THIS was the only issue that was on my radar screen.

I pray he chose wisely.
posted by RavinDave at 7:50 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


...and of course her weight gets tossed in too...

I defy you to link to a single comment seriously mentioning her weight, rather than mocking others for doing so. If the latter is enough to be evil, then why isn't your own comment the same?
posted by DU at 7:53 AM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here are the White House talking points being distributed to supporters going on TV.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:58 AM on May 26, 2009


When I voted for Obama I had no illusions. I was not sucked in by the hype, I knew (as he was claiming otherwise) that he'd diplomatically back-pedal on several issues I cared about and he'd have little-to-no impact on the status quo in Iraq.

I'm no fan of Obama going wobbly on Iraq and Gitmo, but you can't fault him for "back-pedaling" on Sotomayor. Sotomayor already had a whisper campaign against her in the New Republic and other Beltway opinion journals, but this has not seemed to have dissuaded Obama. Even Letterman for cryin' out loud was mocking her as a Latina Judge Judy. At least in this case, you can't say Obama is taking the path of least resistance.

If anything, Obama seems to like the strategy of making his opponents go nuts while staying cool-headed himself. I guess picking a Latina for the Supreme Court is a perfect way to implement this strategy.
posted by jonp72 at 8:00 AM on May 26, 2009


Heh, the was Cardozo "Hispanic"? debate resumes the whole ridiculousness of ethnic tags. Cardozo was from a Portuguese Jewish family established in New York since it was called Nieuw Amsterdam. They had previously fled Portugal for Holland, from where they had emigrated to a Dutch colony in Brazil which was taken over by...the Portuguese, forcing them to move to that other Dutch New World colony. To complicate things even further, many if not most of those Portuguese Jews had arrived to Portugal after their expulsion from Spain...
posted by Skeptic at 8:07 AM on May 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


With all the hooha about the diversity she would bring to the court, it bears noting that if she is confirmed, 6 of 9 justices will be Catholic. But less than a quarter of the country is Catholic.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:16 AM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


As an avid reader [at Daily Kos] and occasional diarist, you can safely assume that I am, politically speaking, a "progressive." I also have years of experience arguing on behalf of criminal defendants before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. So, my views should not be dismissed as part of some kind of smear campaign. On the other hand, I am just one lawyer reciting mostly subjective views. ... My conclusion: I expect that Sotomayor will be a reliable left-moderate voice on the court, but will fall far short of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in terms of intellectual strength.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:21 AM on May 26, 2009


But the "Catholic" judges pretty much do whatever they want to anyway. I don't think she'll be any different just because she was raised Catholic. This quote from Scalia comes to mind:

"There is no such thing as a 'Catholic judge.' The bottom line is that the Catholic faith seems to me to have little effect on my work as a judge. . . Just as there is no 'Catholic' way to cook a hamburger, I am hard pressed to tell you of a single opinion of mine that would have come out differently if I were not Catholic."

Via.
posted by resurrexit at 8:26 AM on May 26, 2009


I was under the impression (and apparently so is the Federal Government) that this in fact means he wasn't Latino.

Your Wikipedia link doesn't say that. It says that different federal government agencies differ on the issue. The Department of Transportation and others count Portugese as Hispanics.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:36 AM on May 26, 2009


Damn, it's disgusting how much we have completely surrendered to mindless identity politics. One of the most important decisions that can be made is this country occurs, and the only thing people want to talk about is identity politics: it's a woman! she's Hispanic (or is she?)! she's got working class roots! she's liberal (or is she?)!

Bleh.

This woman has a long career and impressive resume of achievement, and all anyone wants to talk about is her freaking demographics.

That's complete intellectual disarmament.

The important questions are: (1) is she intellectually qualified; (2) does she have a good judicial temperament; (3) and what is her jurisprudential/interpretive philosophy? Just like with Alito and Roberts, it disgusts me that highly qualified individuals are turned into partisan caricatures based on identity politics and then subsequently attacked on partisan grounds. What's worse is that filibuster talk already is starting. That's so depressing.

The President gets to nominate. The Senate only gets to advise and consent. Let her present her case as to qualifications and then give her a vote and her seat.
posted by dios at 8:42 AM on May 26, 2009 [33 favorites]


"Sotomayor" "Golda Meir" Coincidence? I think not.
posted by hojoki at 8:44 AM on May 26, 2009


Heh, the was Cardozo "Hispanic"? debate resumes the whole ridiculousness of ethnic tags. Cardozo was from a Portuguese Jewish family established in New York since it was called Nieuw Amsterdam. They had previously fled Portugal for Holland, from where they had emigrated to a Dutch colony in Brazil which was taken over by...the Portuguese, forcing them to move to that other Dutch New World colony. To complicate things even further, many if not most of those Portuguese Jews had arrived to Portugal after their expulsion from Spain...

Yah, and the President was born in Honolulu to a Kenyan government minister and an anthropologist from Kansas and then spent his childhood in Indonesia with an Indonesian stepfather and half-sister, but we call him the first African-American president. So I agree: ethnic labels are sort of ridiculous that way.
posted by Slap Factory at 9:04 AM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wasn't the term "hispanic" introduced into the US Census in 1980?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 9:07 AM on May 26, 2009


"Damn, it's disgusting how much we have completely surrendered to mindless identity politics. One of the most important decisions that can be made is this country occurs, and the only thing people want to talk about is identity politics: it's a woman! she's Hispanic (or is she?)! she's got working class roots! she's liberal (or is she?)!"

I'm hoping the election of Obama will be one of the things that starts blunting this in America a bit. It's one of the things I've always found a bit peculiar. Some Americans seem to be shocked that a) I don't know off the top of my head where all my ancestors going back 6 generations fit into their code word classifications and b) are sometimes appalled at the stuff I do know for how much the Mitheral's tend to get around.
posted by Mitheral at 9:07 AM on May 26, 2009


dios, on that third point, what's your opinion of the claims of her being "liberal" or "activist" versus moderate?

My understanding of her rulings is pretty much limited to Wikipedia. The Ricci ruling seems typical of center-left opinion, but her Pappas v. Giuliani comments seem to show a lot of respect for constitutional issues.
posted by FuManchu at 9:25 AM on May 26, 2009


Almanac of the federal judiciary entry on Sonia Sotomayor
posted by wayofthedodo at 9:26 AM on May 26, 2009


What's wrong with linking RedState?

What, you don't get enough of that kind of shit at other sites? Posting comments from lowest common denominator sludgefests elsewhere in political threads here is, to me, very close to shitting in discussion just for laughs. I still hold out hopes that MeFi threads about political news can focus more on information and less on cheap sneers.
posted by mediareport at 9:30 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


She ended the 1994 baseball strike, siding against the owners. That's good enough for me.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:37 AM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


This president is more cunning than he might seem. Today's news photos of Sotomayor are also strikingly attractive and charismatic. - Andrew Sullivan
posted by Joe Beese at 9:37 AM on May 26, 2009


Speaking of extremist judges, in a Democratic Congress eleven Democrats voted to confirm Clarence Thomas
posted by matteo at 9:42 AM on May 26, 2009


I like it with the sneers and the informed opinions, actually.

But eriously, is it not valid to take a look at the nascent talking points, both liminal and subliminal, that will be spouted by propagandists of a certain stripe?
posted by Mister_A at 9:47 AM on May 26, 2009


that would be "seriously".
posted by Mister_A at 9:48 AM on May 26, 2009


[X] seems typical of center-left opinion, but [Y] seem[s] to show a lot of respect for constitutional issues.

This is an interesting dichotomy.

Posting comments from lowest common denominator sludgefests elsewhere in political threads here is, to me, very close to shitting in discussion just for laughs.

They have members of Congress posting over there. That makes them at the very least semi-representative of the GOP. Although none of (Congress, semi-representative, GOP) really keeps them from being lowest common denominator sludgefests.
posted by DU at 9:56 AM on May 26, 2009


This president is more cunning than he might seem. Today's news photos of Sotomayor are also strikingly attractive and charismatic. - Andrew Sullivan

I hate it when horny pigs like Andrew Sullivan reduce women to sex objects!
posted by aswego at 9:57 AM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


DU: "They have members of Congress posting over there. That makes them at the very least semi-representative of the GOP."

They're also on the Huffington Post blogroll.

Frightening as it may be to contemplate, by the standards of right-wing blogging, RedState is a solemn and august enterprise.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:04 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joe Beese: Nobody’s arguing her legal credentials; I will admit they are incredibly impressive. What I am arguing is her temperament for being a Supreme Court justice, which is a position that it seems manifestly obvious that she’s not cut out for.

It's a little late for them to be editorializing about Harriet Myers, isn't it?
posted by mkultra at 10:04 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, my bookmarklet inadvertently attributed that quote to Joe Beese. It's actually from the RedState article he, in turn quotes.)
posted by mkultra at 10:05 AM on May 26, 2009


For what it's worth, to counter the anonymous whispers that she's a lightweight, my reporter friends who have covered her over the years say she's scary smart.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:06 AM on May 26, 2009


This woman has a long career and impressive resume of achievement, and all anyone wants to talk about is her freaking demographics.

Good point. But if we were only to talk about Supreme Court picks in terms of their resumes, not many people would bother commenting; not being lawyers, most of us are not going to know what her decisions "say" about her except for a few well-publicized ones, and we wouldn't have much intelligent to say about those, either. (at least I wouldn't).

And probably no one knows what her appointment will "mean" in judicial terms till after she's been on the court a few years, or even till after she's retired/dead.

So demographics and the political foofaraw around the appointment is about all a lot of us have to talk about.

And if you're a woman and/or hispanic, "demographics" is not a small thing; knowing that the Court will include someone like you (that people like you are no longer excluded, or are less excluded) is an event of some importance.
posted by emjaybee at 10:12 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


CunningLinguist: "For what it's worth, to counter the anonymous whispers that she's a lightweight, my reporter friends who have covered her over the years say she's scary smart."
Good. She can be a foil to Scalia, who's damn smart but just plain evil.♠
posted by notsnot at 10:16 AM on May 26, 2009


dios, on that third point, what's your opinion of the claims of her being "liberal" or "activist" versus moderate?

Sorry, but I don't like to play that game. I think it is extremely damaging to the reputation of the court to politicize the members or the nominees.

The first question is if she is intellectually qualified? She certainly seems to be. Sotomayor is not the powerhouse on the 2nd Circuit; it's a competitive bench. The 2nd is the court of Guido Calabresi. And Jose Cabranes (who almost was and probably should have been on the Court). It also has seniors like Ralph Winter and Roger Miner. It's a tough bench. But she does have a good reputation on that powerful bench. So she has the intellectual chops. But I would note: she is not an overwhelming intellect. She will not be the Democrat's Scalia. She will not be a lion like Brennan. She's not on the level of Roberts and Scalia. But she can hold her own with Alito. I think the Dem's intellectual powerhouse will continue to be Breyer, whom I have immense respect for as a judicial intellect. I envision Sotomayor just being a little bit louder--but any more intellectually powerful or effective--Ginsburg.

The next question is her judicial temperament. I know she can be brash and a bully on the Court, in the way that Scalia is. But, again, she does not have the chops that Scalia has. Scalia has been able to get away with his act because of the power of this thinking. If she brings that brashness to the Court and tries to go toe to toe with Scalia, it will not be pretty for her. The best thing for her to do is temper herself. She will not be able to bully Roberts or Scalia intellectually, and Thomas will do what Thomas always does: be quiet and write the most limited opinions possible. If the goal is to win over Kennedy, she will need to be pragmatic and persuasive. But temperament also has to do with how prepared and knowledgeable the judge is, and she seems to be qualified on that front. Whether she will be effective is a different question.

The last question is what her judicial interpretive philosophy is. And my limited knowledge of her opinions is that it is an open question. She seems to be fine, but I've not seen her articulate a definite view. For instance, in the Quattrone case, she seemed to properly apply the rule regarding gag orders, but allowed her self to go beyond the narrowest holding necessary (as a rule, I prefer judges who rule on the narrowest grounds possible). But in the Cassidy v. Chertoff case, she seems to apply the precedent under the Fourth Amendment neutrally without going farther.

I don't think she has a guiding philosophy like Breyer's "active liberty" or Scalia's textualism or Thomas' first principles. She seems like a pragmatist, similar to Souter and Alito. I would really like to hear more from her about what her views are when she is on the Supreme Court, but I suspect she will "grow" on the Court where she is less constrained. And that is always the million dollar question from a nominee.

I'll be interested to learn more about her.
posted by dios at 10:18 AM on May 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


For what it's worth, to counter the anonymous whispers that she's a lightweight

These are not going anywhere. She won the Pyne Prize at Princeton and edited the Yale Law Journal.
posted by caddis at 10:22 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, to counter the anonymous whispers that she's a lightweight, my reporter friends who have covered her over the years say she's scary smart.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:06 PM on May 26


Well, there two different issues here. Is she intellectually intelligent enough to be a Supreme Court judge? Yes. She is "scary smart" about legal issues in comparison to your average judge/attorney/man on the street.

But at the level of the Supreme Court, we are playing on curve. There are lions out there on the Supreme Court (and the various Court of Appeals). And she has never impressed upon me that she is one of those. Scalia is scary smart in comparison to your average Supreme Court Justice. Roberts is pretty high up there too. For what is colloquially called the "liberal" side of the Court, there really has not been a intellectual powerhouse of that level since Brennan. But on that scale, I don't think Sotomayor has the chops.

I think this is just red meat identity politics.

This is not Obama's lion. That pick will be coming when Stevens finally leaves.
posted by dios at 10:25 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


These are not going anywhere. She won the Pyne Prize at Princeton and edited the Yale Law Journal.
posted by caddis at 12:22 PM on May 26


Yeah, caddis is correct. "Intelligence" is not going to be a knock on her. She is plenty intelligent enough to get the position. The intelligence issue is only a political point about those who want a Brennan-like counter-balance to Scalia, and she is not it.

I actually think she is fairly similar to Alito, but a little bit louder at oral arguments. Not the smartest judge on the Court, but a reliable vote who will follow the law based on their view of the law and not try real hard to move the Court one way or the other.
posted by dios at 10:29 AM on May 26, 2009


But if we were only to talk about Supreme Court picks in terms of their resumes, not many people would bother commenting...[because] we wouldn't have much intelligent to say

You say that first part like it's a bad thing—and as for the second, well, quipping about her gender or race hardly qualifies as having something "intelligent to say." Personally, I'd rather see a thread where educated, informed folks share what they know. Opening a back door so the peanut gallery can flood the thread does not constitute elevating the discussion.
posted by cribcage at 10:46 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Based on the administration's track record, I have to ask, does she pay her taxes?
posted by gruchall at 10:46 AM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think that (or something similar) is about the only thing that would keep her from breezing through confirmation hearings, gruchall.
posted by Mister_A at 10:57 AM on May 26, 2009


Scalia is scary smart in comparison to your average Supreme Court Justice.

Who is your average Supreme Court justice? Sure, Scalia is the most engaging writer on the Court, and he is also a clever and tenacious debater. But he's not "scary smart" in comparison to the other justices, who are themselves a bunch of intellectual outliers for the most part.

I attended a judicial conference a few years ago that included a lengthy back-and-forth between Scalia and Ginsburg on a variety of legal topics. Scalia definitely was the more charismatic and entertaining of the two, but Ginsburg was more incisive and thoughtful, and she drew or beat Scalia on just about every point they clashed on.
posted by brain_drain at 10:59 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


CNN Headline:
Obama: She 'will make a great justice'


Oh great! Now I suppose we have to Move ZIG for her!
posted by The Deej at 11:08 AM on May 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


One thing that seems likely to be brought against her in the confirmation hearings is her opinion of the role of judges - the New York Times had an article about statements she made in 2001 and 2005 saying:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,”

and

the "court of appeals is where policy is made."
posted by dragoon at 11:23 AM on May 26, 2009


Huh, Bush Sr nominated her to the US District Court. I'm sure rightwing nutjobs will now be silenced about her supposed ultra-liberality.

Why would they care about someone nominated by a Democrat like Bush Sr.?

(Seriously, the man actually talked to leaders of other nations, and kicking ass was not the primary purpose of his military activities. he was even afraid to take over governing Iraq, fearing some sort of meltdown in the country. No way was he a Republican)

Seriously, it seems the primary point of attack will be that she's "too empathic" to make a good justice; already on the radio this morning I heard a Republican talking head bring up an old fireman discrimination case to give the impression that her "empathy" will evidently make her rule against white people.
posted by happyroach at 11:23 AM on May 26, 2009


brain_drain: I wasn't at this conference you are describing. But I can honestly say that the unique intellectual power of Scalia on the bench is pretty much the closest thing you are going to get to a consensus opinion from court watchers. Even those who dislike the guy concede he is a lion. The kind of intellect with a vision that drags the Court in directions. Granted, you may disagree with his views which may color whether you think he is smart (wherein you define smart as "agrees with me on an issue"), but his intelligence with respect to the law is overwhelming.

As I said, we are talking about a specific type of intelligence here. Objective intelligence is not the point. Questioning whether Scalia is not the intellectual powerhouse of the Court strikes me as an untenable position.
posted by dios at 11:34 AM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for your insightful comments on this topic, dios. I always look forward to reading them.
posted by sciurus at 11:45 AM on May 26, 2009


dios: I think what you are implicitly referring to -- and what the commentary you note is citing -- is not Scalia's intelligence, but rather his force of personality and skill at moving the court in the direction he wants. That's why you're using adjectives and metaphors like "lion" and "overwhelming" and "powerhouse." That's also why your comparison to Brennan is apt, because Brennan knew how to move the court in the direction he wanted.

What I'm talking about is the strength of his analysis of legal issues. He's a brilliant guy. But he's not playing in a different league than Breyer, or Ginsberg, or Stevens, or Roberts. I base this opinion on my observation of Supreme Court cases over the last 10 years, on speaking engagements at which I have observed some justices speak, and on views from others whose opinions I respect. I do not base this opinion, as you suggest, on whether any particular justice "agrees with me on an issue."
posted by brain_drain at 11:56 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would disagree with dios with respect to all the court watchers I know and how they would characterize Scalia. It might just be a semantic argument, but "the intellectual powerhouse" won't get you anywhere close to a consensus. I don't know what you specifically mean by "lion," but you have a better chance with that. He does have a "kind of intellect" and a "vision," but you'll get much disagreement that it drags the Court in directions. Every other conservative member of the Court has declined to buy into Scalia's theory of jurisprudence, and there are numerous stories of him pushing members away. As for his intelligence with respect to the law, it is no more "overwhelming" than any other Justice's.

Justice Scalia is a hero to a particular band of (usually young) conservative members of the legal profession. He is seldom the favorite of any older conservatives, so it's not a matter of whether one agrees with him or not. He is not a pioneer of the originalist/textualist clique, nor is he the most consistent or impressive member. He's just the first one of them to reach the Court, and he has a number of other interesting things going for him. He's outspoken. He's a flamboyant writer who's willing to show how well-read he is. He purports to (and usually does) subscribe to a theory of jurisprudence that is easily articulated. All of these things make it easy and appealing for law students and members of the media to fashion a narrative around him, but it is largely mythical.
posted by aswego at 11:59 AM on May 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Meh, I think Ginsburg is the only original legal thinker on the court now, and only by a hair. Scalia is smart, sure -- brilliant even -- but the doctrines he espouses, and the authoritarian arguments in their favor, are as old as authoritarianism itself.

This is an exciting pick; as far as I can tell, she may well be the first (or certainly one of very few) working-class-born-and-raised justice of the modern era. To me, that matters much more than her ethnicity or her gender, and brings with it a new standard for real life experience for the position. The people -- of the working-class majority, that is -- are finally represented in the third branch.

Or am I wrong?

I am dying to see the Rushublicans go after her, costing them the last few Hispanic votes they've got for a generation, and thus likely costing them one of only a few paths back to relevance.

This morning was the second time in the new administration when I've said "fuck yeah, this was what I voted for." (OK, the first time was when I scored a major research grant from stimulus funds, a wee bit selfish of me.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:03 PM on May 26, 2009


Scalia is scary smart in comparison to your average Supreme Court Justice.

No, he's more glib and entertaining than the average Supreme Court justice, which a lot of people mistake for "smarter." Remember, Scalia is the justice who compared real-world terrorism issues to 24 and whose writing on same-sex relationships isn't just bigoted or smallminded but actively dense.

He's not stupid by any means, but he's not the most brilliant mind on the court, either. He's not even the most brilliant conservative: Alito is simply smarter than him and Roberts better at convincing other justices of the viability of a given argument.
posted by mightygodking at 12:07 PM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is an exciting pick; as far as I can tell, she may well be the first (or certainly one of very few) working-class-born-and-raised justice of the modern era. To me, that matters much more than her ethnicity or her gender, and brings with it a new standard for real life experience for the position. The people -- of the working-class majority, that is -- are finally represented in the third branch.

Not even close. This is true of Ginsburg and Souter. It's also true of Roberts and Alito. Scalia's family was not really blue blood. Heck, look at Clarence Thomas' biography--he grew up in poverty.


As for those who want to disagree about the recognized intelligence of Scalia, I'll just leave you to your opinions. I just cannot view the argument that Scalia is not a special intelligence on the court as even remotely credible. Call him an evil genius all you want. Call him rude, obnoxious, sneering, and wrong. But to deny that he is not the greatest intellectual force currently on the Court is just plain silly. On one hand you have people begging for Obama to appoint someone who can be an intellectual counter-balance to Scalia, but you also want to deny that he is someone who needs an intellectual counterbalance that does not currently exist on the court? That's nonsensical.
posted by dios at 12:23 PM on May 26, 2009


Some people arguing that he's an intellectual powerhouse that needs counterbalancing doesn't mean he indeed is such an intellectual powerhouse.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:31 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Granted, you may disagree with his views which may color whether you think he is smart (wherein you define smart as "agrees with me on an issue")

Could someone not arrive at the same conclusion if you substitute agree for disagree?

I've no qualms about ascribing intelligence to him, plenty of intelligent dickheads in the world. But, I fail to fall into a lather about said intelligence, or lack therein about one aspect of life and how you apply those rules and your internal belief system. It does not necessarily take an intellectual to sway people to your point of view. I am not in the camp that thinks Bush II was an intellectual idiot, but he hardly was a heavyweight and he managed to sway a lot of people for many years.
posted by edgeways at 12:38 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Although Sotomayor has not had a case dealing directly with abortion rights, she wrote the opinion in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, 304 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2002), a challenge to the “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibited foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions. An abortion rights group (along with its attorneys) brought claimed that the policy violated its First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights. Relying on the Second Circuit’s earlier decision in Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Agency for International Development, which dealt with a virtually identical claim, Sotomayor’s opinion rejected the group’s First Amendment claim on the merits. Turning to the plaintiffs’ due process claim, Sotomayor held that they lacked standing because they alleged only a harm to foreign organizations, rather than themselves. Sotomayor held that the plaintiffs did have standing with regard to their equal protection claim, but she ultimately held that the claim failed under rational basis review because the government “is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position” with public funds.

Regardless of your feelings about abortion, these cases appear to be rightly decided on the issues in question. Just because a group pressing an agenda you agree with loses on the merits in a case doesn't mean that the judge erred. Those standing rules have been in place for some time, and rational-basis review is such a low bar that the government almost always wins. You can't walk all over procedure to force an outcome you want. That isn't law or justice.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:45 PM on May 26, 2009


Growing up "working class" and relative/temporary childhood "poverty" are not quite the same thing. RBG's father was a small merchant. David Souter's father was a banker, and he grew up largely on a farm. (Agrarian occupations involving the ownership of land, even if they are not lucrative, are not "working class" in my [Marxist] sense of the word either).

A single mother who's a nurse, that's working-class.

I grant you Thomas grew up in real poverty and in a working-class home, however. He's so easy to forget, that I forgot him. What a shameful appointment he was.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:45 PM on May 26, 2009


This is getting to be a silly de-rail. Don't think Scalia is uniquely intelligent. I don't care. I have no vested interest in people thinking he is uniquely intelligent on the Court. The only reason it has come up is because most of those "on the left" have been begging to have someone appointed to counter-balance him--precisely because neither Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens or Breyer don't have the chops to do so--and Sotomayor is not that balance. She is not a Brennan. The Brennan is going to be next pick. But if you want to discredit Scalia and only argue that his impact--such that it is--is only the result of him being loud or a dickhead or whatever, then fine. Have at it. I would think that anyone who actually follows discussions of the Court would see through that.
posted by dios at 12:46 PM on May 26, 2009


Oh, and Roberts' father was an executive; Samuel Alito Sr., although he arrived as an immigrant as a baby and grew up working-class, wound up as a high school teacher and director of New Jersey's Office of Legislative Services.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:50 PM on May 26, 2009


A single mother who's a nurse, that's working-class.

I've always been very resistant to identity politics, but I can't help but be more than usually impressed by anyone who makes it from a South Bronx housing project to Yale law. To go from the Bronxdale Houses to the threshhold of SCOTUS is truly, monumentally remarkable.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:53 PM on May 26, 2009


But if you want to discredit Scalia and only argue that his impact--such that it is--is only the result of him being loud or a dickhead or whatever, then fine.

No, you're right: he's a fuckin' genius: "The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent’s rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

“Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?” Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so."

Only a real lion, a true genius, would base his interpretation of the Constitution on the plot of a fictional TV show.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:54 PM on May 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't get what you guys are arguing with dios about Scalia. He is the smartest person in the room when those nine meet and very few informed court watchers would disagree. They are all, with one exception, extremely smart people and Scalia stands out in that crowd. Pretty impressive he is. I am not sure who on the left, or the right for that matter, could match him. Perhaps Obama, but it is so tacky to appoint one's self.
posted by caddis at 12:57 PM on May 26, 2009


But he's not playing in a different league than Breyer, or Ginsberg, or Stevens, or Roberts.

He's not even the most brilliant conservative: Alito is simply smarter than him and Roberts better at convincing other justices of the viability of a given argument.


Wait, Roberts is doing well? From my IANAL perspective, I see him as leading a strangely divided court that with this "9 justices, 10 opinions" production of decisions is hearkening back to the days of multiple opinions we had before the Marshall Court.

I do agree with dios, though: Sotomayor isn't Obama's lion. I'm not sure that it'll be the judge replacing Stevens, though, since Elena Kagan is next in line and she doesn't seem to fit the "lion" model.
posted by dw at 12:59 PM on May 26, 2009


fourcheesemac: I'm not going to argue whether RBG's immigrant parents who owned a small haberdashery in working class Brooklyn means she does not have a working class background. You are apparently working with a different definition than I am. Alito's parents are immigrants, and were both school teachers (I tend to call that working class). Clarence Thomas had a single mother who was a maid. If you go back in the recent past, Brennan has a great story too.

Quite simply, the line that Sotomayor is unique in her background is incorrect. I should also note that her jurisprudence should not be guided by her past; it should be guided by the law and apply the same to Agrarians like Souter as much as to nurses.
posted by dios at 1:01 PM on May 26, 2009


more than usually impressed by anyone who makes it from a South Bronx housing project to Yale law.

What about a descendant of slaves whose father abandoned him at two, was homeless, living in abject poverty in the South, and only had a mother who was a maid... who made it Yale law? Heh.
posted by dios at 1:05 PM on May 26, 2009


The only reason it has come up is because most of those "on the left" have been begging to have someone appointed to counter-balance him--precisely because neither Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens or Breyer don't have the chops to do so

Don't be ridiculous; Ginsburg in particular has "the chops" and none of those four are intellectually deficient to Scalia. They aren't counter-balances to Scalia because they're not as extremely liberal as Scalia is extremely conservative. Just because they don't want to get involved in intellectual dick-measuring contests with Scalia over conflicting legal visions he cares about and they don't (relatively speaking) doesn't make him smarter.

When liberals want "their Scalia," they're talking about someone willing to articulate a firm progressive vision of the law on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor isn't it; she's a moderate and judicially speaking doesn't tend to pick fights. Diane Wood or Kathleen Sullivan would have been better in this regard; Pam Karlan or Kim Wardlaw would have been exceptional.

But Obama wasn't going to use his first Supreme Court nomination for a firebreather: he was going to pick a widely-respected moderate and let the Republicans make fools out of themselves trying to discredit her so they could use up all their judicial ammunition in one go. And that's what he did. (I still think Wood would have been the better choice in this regard, but Sotomayor allows Republicans the chance to alienate two consituencies at once.)
posted by mightygodking at 1:05 PM on May 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


dios- I don't believe Scalia is an evil genius. I don't think he's horribly rude or sneering (at least in his public life, which is all I know), or particularly obnoxious. He's wrong sometimes, but so are all the justices. I would never say he's unintelligent, either. I do think he has a lot of traits, arguably positive, that roll together into some type of X-factor. I just can't summon a phrase that has the word "intellect" in it to describe what distinguishes him from the rest of the Court. I think part of the disagreement here is that so much is being conflated in whatever that phrase is supposed to be (I think liberals have a lot of great things to say about Brennan for instance, including "lion," but we would never call him "the intellectual powerhouse," either).

Some people clamored for a "liberal Scalia," because they do overestimate his influence on the rest of the Court. It is not Brennan's. Brennan won swing votes by rolling back his opinions and compromising. Scalia never does this. Scalia's outsized influence is on the public at large, which has great currency in the other two branches of government but none in his. In fact, during the Roberts confirmation many conservatives talked about his predicted ability to build consensus, specifically because Scalia could not.

"Counterbalancing" Scalia on the Court will involve replacing a reliable conservative retirement with a reliable liberal. If someone wants another Brennan-like consensus builder who could theoretically persuade Kennedy more often, that's one type of Justice (and I think they will have to wait for the next nomination, as you wrote). If someone wants a folk hero that will give liberal adolescent court watchers something to get excited about, that's another type of Justice altogether.
posted by aswego at 1:09 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


dw: Elena Kagan is next in line and she doesn't seem to fit the "lion" model

DW: Purely out of curiosity, and this is not at all meant as snark, could you tell me what you mean by any part of that sentence? Do you have any reason to think that she is "next in line" (rather than, say Judge Wood), or that she's not a "lion"? I've largely tried to watch this from the sidelines for practical and professional reasons, but I will say this: Professor Kagan is incandescently smart. When I was at U of C you had some of the greatest minds in the legal profession on faculty -- on the right and the left -- and she had absolutely no trouble swimming in that pond. So what does it take?
posted by The Bellman at 1:16 PM on May 26, 2009


But if you want to discredit Scalia and only argue that his impact--such that it is--is only the result of him being loud or a dickhead or whatever, then fine.

I'm ready to agree that Scalia is a striking or "special" intellect on the Court. But it simply doesn't follow that he's had an outsize influence on the pattern of its decisions. In my view he's struck out too far, and alienated potential allies too much, to build the coalitions that move the Court. Rehnquist was not a superstar the way Scalia was, but his long-term planning seems to have changed the direction of constitutional law much more than Scalia's incisiveness.
posted by grobstein at 1:26 PM on May 26, 2009


Rehnquist was not a superstar the way Scalia was, but his long-term planning seems to have changed the direction of constitutional law much more than Scalia's incisiveness.
posted by grobstein at 3:26 PM on May 26


I agree completely. Rehnquist's influence on the direction and drift of the Court over 4 decades is nearly beyond compare in the history of the Court. He began as the lone dissenter and pulled the Court where he wanted over the course of decades. Look, my point is not to argue that Scalia is God of the Court; John Marshall part 2. My only point is that Sotomayor is not the counterbalance for Scalia. She lacks the defined ideology and that certain X factor (whether you want to call it intelligence, persuasiveness, whatever) to pull members to her position. She is likely to be a lot like Alito. A reliable vote, but not one that will be a lodestar for the left. I do think that Obama will appoint a lion to Stevens seat.
posted by dios at 1:37 PM on May 26, 2009


Can someone point me to something Scalia has written that demonstrates this unique intelligence, which apparently demands such consensus from all court watchers? Because if he is so smart, surely then there should be some evidence and not just a bunch of fanboy statements. Or is this a kind of connoisseurship of intelligece, whereby no one would deny that Michelangelo was the greatest sculptor of all time?
posted by Rumple at 1:41 PM on May 26, 2009


Pffft. Bernini, hello?
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:04 PM on May 26, 2009


Obama has just posted a youtube video to Facebook talking up his pick, just him into the camera. How social networky of him.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:06 PM on May 26, 2009



Some people clamored for a "liberal Scalia,"


We want our own loudmouthed know-it-all!
posted by dilettante at 2:07 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm here!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:12 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sweet photo.
posted by Morrigan at 3:22 PM on May 26, 2009


geezus christ. Portuguese people are not Hispanic.
UGH!
posted by liza at 3:35 PM on May 26, 2009


For the record: SHE is the one spelling her name wrong. Not me.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:36 PM on May 26, 2009


Obama heard her story, called Axelrod, and was like: 'Dude, her story's better than mine!'

To me, this is another great American story, and I love great American stories. I can't wait to hear the GOP response over the coming months.
posted by Flex1970 at 3:42 PM on May 26, 2009


James Inhofe (R-OK): "In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences."


I'm sure he spent an equal amount of time making sure Alito and Roberts weren't unduly influenced by their personal race and gender.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:15 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am dying to see the Rushublicans go after her, costing them the last few Hispanic votes they've got for a generation, and thus likely costing them one of only a few paths back to relevance.

Just like what happened to the Democrats after they savaged and filibustered Miguel Estrada, right?
posted by gyc at 4:47 PM on May 26, 2009


But if you want to discredit Scalia and only argue that his impact--such that it is--is only the result of him being loud or a dickhead or whatever, then fine

The quote earlier from edgeways was "I've no qualms about ascribing intelligence to him, plenty of intelligent dickheads in the world." So it wasn't to say his influence was only the result of him being dickheaded, but that in principle it's entirely possible to imagine a person one considers a dickhead to also be incredibly intelligent, but just that Justice Scalia isn't necessarily that person.

I don't follow the court much myself, but was intrigued that you had defined so clearly the agreed intellectual status of the members - as an academic I find that people very rarely agree on who beats who once you pass a certain bar (so to speak) - it becomes more a matter of style and which aspects of intelligence you favor. Some people think wisdom consists of being measured and painstakingly detailed, others in being original and ostentatiously bold...
posted by mdn at 5:43 PM on May 26, 2009


Yeah, dios' certainty about where each of the justices stands in intellectual weight is hilarious.
posted by mediareport at 5:59 PM on May 26, 2009


I do think that Obama will appoint a lion to Stevens seat.

Doing so could have unintended consequences.
posted by ND¢ at 6:59 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Chalk me up as disagreeing with dios w/r/t Scalia. MGK has it right -- Scalia is the most forceful writer on the Court right now, but Roberts is the driving intellectual force behind the conservative wing right now. Scalia's decisions have gone downhill in recent years; you could say the same of Stevens.

Each judge on the SC has their areas of expertise, though -- with the possible exception of Thomas, they each shine when writing certain types of opinion. Stevens and Scalia (and perhaps Roberts) are merely the most multidisciplinary.
posted by spiderwire at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2009


dios writes "wherein you define smart as 'agrees with me on an issue'"

What's funny is that you ascribe this tendency to others, but it pretty much defines you. There are plenty of court watchers who think Scalia is a "unique" intellect or what have you. But there are plenty of respected lawyers and lawyer-journalists who indeed think he's a laughable blowhard whose precious stance on originalism is in fact a hypocritical (or at least inconsistent) ploy he uses to bat down legislation that he personally disagrees with.

No doubt he's probably the most well-known of the current judges -- that's what going on speaking tours will do for you.
posted by bardic at 7:20 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


May I just say that it is an absolute pleasure to come home and want to cue up CSPAN videos of the Sotomayor announcement because I am interested in what the president says?

During the past eight years of major policy decisions and announcements, I read reaction and opinion from the all the smart analysts spanning the political spectrum, but I couldn't have cared less about what the Bush administration had to say.

Man, it feels good to finally have the adults in charge.
posted by lalex at 8:21 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not a lawyer, so I wouldn't presume to judge whose legal intelligence is outstanding. That does not preclude me from observing intelligence and wisdom in non-legal settings.

I've heard this line about Scalia's supposed great intelligence over the years, and I was curious, so I listened to him speak and read his writings. And I was struck in just the opposite way - I thought he was a blowhard, and a petty guy, and specifically not informed by wisdom.

Frankly, I thought in some ways he was very unsophisticated and remarkably naive - as when he was discussing torture. The sheer idiocy of his statements made me wonder if this is not some kind of a joke - this was not a question of disagreeing with him politically - this was a question of him buying into the most primitive and discredited tropes about "ticking bomb" scenarios. And then, his reasoning in allowing the U.S. to besmirch its legal system with going along shameful practices struck me as exactly lacking in WISDOM - as in measured, long view of what truly is beneficial to our country and this society. Instead, he struck me as a petty man, unable to control his prejudices and easily piqued, a partisan of very narrow horizons. NOT a wise man.

So, maybe there is some magic sauce in his legal opinions - I'm not qualified to judge that. But as an intellect in a broader sense, he's laughable.
posted by VikingSword at 9:09 PM on May 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


Thank you, VikingSword. Couldn't have expressed it better.
posted by darkstar at 10:33 PM on May 26, 2009


"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached." - Antonin Scalia

Yeah, this guy's a fucking genius. Look, it's kind of easy to write really snarky and clever judicial opinions when you've already decided what your opinion is beforehand and therefore have plenty of time to write it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:38 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, dios' certainty about where each of the justices stands in intellectual weight is hilarious.

I think he got it just about right. Despite the attacks against him dios is certainly shining in this thread.
posted by caddis at 5:06 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


What about a descendant of slaves whose father abandoned him at two, was homeless, living in abject poverty in the South, and only had a mother who was a maid... who made it Yale law? Heh.

You put more value on Yale Law than Justice Thomas does.
posted by oaf at 9:08 AM on May 27, 2009


I think he got it just about right.

Eh...not so much, really.
posted by darkstar at 10:08 AM on May 27, 2009


This just in: Reasonable people disagree about high-visibility high-power government appointees. Film at whatever.
posted by Plutor at 10:19 AM on May 27, 2009


Okay, this is my favorite tidbit from today's coverage.

Women were first allowed to go to Princeton in 1969. Sotomayor arrived as a freshman in the fall of 1972. Samuel Alito, who had graduated from Princeton that spring, was a member of a conservative campus group, Concerned Alumni of Princeton, formed to fight the inclusion of women.

Wonder how that conversation went.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:06 PM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I love this:
Sotomayor also claimed: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.”

This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with chickpeas — would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench. - The Hill
One day into this and the Republicans are reduced to criticizing her diet.
posted by octothorpe at 4:35 PM on May 27, 2009


I was looking at cameras in the Supreme Court (cause I would like to watch the proceedings). Sotomayor can really only soften the stance here, as it doesn't appear to be a life and death issue for her.

Rough (arguable) position summary;

Roberts - Cautiously not opposed.
Alito - Very pro.
Breyer - Experiment, gather facts then proceed with caution.
Bader Ginsberg - Neutral with pro leanings.
Kennedy - Wobbly opposed (court dynamic worry).
Scalia - Very slight favor but mainly opposed (media misuse).
Souter - Over his dead body!
Stevens - Maybe okay, probably not (court dynamic worry).
Thomas - Not strictly opposed (terrorists worries).
posted by phoque at 6:02 PM on May 27, 2009


Rough (arguable) position summary;

Is that a summary of their position on cameras or just their judicial positions generally?
posted by spiderwire at 6:16 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


GOP looks past Sotomayor -- "Republicans see little chance in blocking her court nomination."
posted by ericb at 6:37 PM on May 27, 2009


Mark Krikorian of the right-wing Center for Immigration Studies:
"Deferring to people’s own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent’s simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn’t be giving in to. [...]

[O]ne of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that’s not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be."
And this is what they got? What's next? Critizing her academic credentials? Oh, wait.
Rove: Attending top schools doesn’t mean that Sotomayor is smart, but it proves that Bush is.

During a debate at Radio City Music Hall last night, former Bush adviser Karl Rove claimed that Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor was “not necessarily” “very smart.” When host Charlie Rose noted in response that she attended Princeton and Yale Law School, Rove replied that you don’t have to be smart to attend a top school:
Rove - “She is competent and will be confirmed….She has an interesting and compelling life story…”

Charlie - “She is very smart.”

Rove “Not necessarily.”

Charlie - “What do you mean? She went to Princeton where she graduating with honors and then went on to Yale Law School….”

Rove- “I know lots of stupid people who went to Ivy League schools.” The crowd applauds."
Rove’s dismissal of Ivy League attendance is ironic considering that in an interview previewing the debate, he cited George W. Bush’s experience at Harvard and Yale to mock claims that Bush is stupid. “The myth was that this guy, who was a Yale history grad and a Harvard MBA, was not smart,” Rove told the Chicago Tribune. In December 2008, Rove also touted Bush’s time at Harvard and Yale in a Wall Street Journal column, writing, “You don’t make it through either unless you are a reader.
She didn't merely attend Ivy League schools. She excelled right at the top. As mentioned above, she graduated from Princeton summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Yale Law School, having been selected as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Gotta love ya' Rove. You were a drop-out of both University of Utah and University of Maryland, College Park (staying in school to maintain deferrment status from Vietnam). Then it was onto George Mason University. Ah, but you never graduated with a college diploma, did ya'. So, stop shitting on people's stellar credentials. Shut the fuck up, Turd Blossom.

P.S. -- You, Limbaugh, Gingrich and the assorted nut-cases which now comprise the spearhead of the Republican party need to understand that the vast majority of Americans have rejected your tired, old dirty identity politics.
posted by ericb at 7:05 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]




And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

Newcomer? She was born in fucking New York City, to parents who were both US citizens. Jesus Christ.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:55 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


also

"Deferring to people’s own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English."

Go tell it to Antonin.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:03 PM on May 27, 2009


And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

Mark Krikorian? So some clearly Armenian dude who studied for a couple years in Armenia under the Soviet Union is "us" but a woman from the Bronx whose parents, grandparents, and for all I know great grandparents were American citizens is "them".

What the fuck?

Go back to Armenia, jackass.

(no, not really. But yeah it takes some big cojones to call the daughter and granddaughter of american citizens out on her lack of American nameness when you studied in Armenia and have a weird Armenian name)
posted by Justinian at 8:43 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


CunningLinguist: "And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

Newcomer? She was born in fucking New York City, to parents who were both US citizens. Jesus Christ.
"

And can I point out that Puerto Rico is, you know, part of the USA? So Puerto Rican culture is by definition part of American Culture.
posted by octothorpe at 4:33 AM on May 28, 2009


And can I point out that Puerto Rico is, you know, part of the USA? So Puerto Rican culture is by definition part of American Culture.

No, one does not magically lead to the other. Puerto Rico has a cultural identity very much different from what we generally think of as "mainstream" America.
posted by mkultra at 9:07 AM on May 28, 2009


yeh, but she is nyorican, after all.

whether we white folks think it's 'american' or not is rapidly ceasing to matter. the wise thing to do (and I say this totally without irony or rancor) is learn at least a little spanish: it's not going to be our language in any future I can foresee, but it just might help you understand a few things about that "minority" that's going to outnumber white folks in just a few years....
posted by lodurr at 1:28 PM on May 28, 2009


CNN has posted the transcript of the speech during which Sotomayor made the "wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences" comment. While the whole speech is definitely worth the read, I've pulled a few salient quotes below, including the section that includes the comment in question:
While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum's aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives... are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address.

[...]

Professor Judith Resnik says that there is not a single voice of feminism, not a feminist approach but many who are exploring the possible ways of being that are distinct from those structured in a world dominated by the power and words of men. Thus, feminist theories of judging are in the midst of creation and are not and perhaps will never aspire to be as solidified as the established legal doctrines of judging can sometimes appear to be.

[...]

I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that — it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging.

[...]

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences... our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

[...]

I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable.

[...]

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.
Having read all of that, it's particularly irritating to see that one solitary soundbite stripped of its context so that it can be blown completely out of proportion to the degree that it has -- and no doubt will continue to be until the hearings are over.
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:49 AM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stay classy, asshole.
G. Gordon Liddy: "Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then."
posted by ericb at 8:05 AM on May 30, 2009


Puerto Rico has a cultural identity very much different from what we generally think of as "mainstream" America.

My point was that only a jackass would complain about her pronouncing her name like a "newcomer." Puerto Ricans are citizens, have been for 100 years. She is a New Yorker, the daughter and granddaughter of US citizens, and whether or not the jackasses at the National Review get it, "mainstream" America long ago stopped meaning mayo on white bread. The real soul of America is somewhere in those Korean taco trucks, all melting together in the pot with the crazy last names.

That said, it's fascinating to watch the loons in the Republican Party further hobble the battered survivors who remain in office.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:23 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


This from NPR is a very entertaining behind the scenes tick tock of how they sneaked her around the press etc.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:44 AM on May 30, 2009


High-Court Nominee Adopts RIAA Stance
posted by homunculus at 1:46 PM on June 1, 2009


The Democrats are not your friend when it comes to copyright laws. Everybody needs money and they get too much from the entertainment industry to fight the RIAA etc.
posted by caddis at 2:04 PM on June 1, 2009


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