Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who is Judge Sonia Sotomayor?

It's easy to be seduced by Sotomayor's rags-to-riches story. But the most trenchant (and alas distressing) reporting on her competence comes from The New Republic. To its credit, despite being a liberal publication, it pulls no punches in, for example, reporting her fellow judges' opinion of her--essentially that she's an intellectual lightweight and a "bully" on the bench who is too full of herself.

It could not have been difficult to find a nominee better than that. Indeed, even if President Obama wanted to appoint a woman who is a hard liberal, no such accusations could have been leveled at such fine jurists as Judge Diane Wood or Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

The nomination of Sotomoyor is emblematic of the problems that come from trying to create a workplace "that looks like America." It's too easy to let merit take a back seat. Here's the link to the article.


Anonymous said...

I just read the New Republic article, and some of its comments. Most of the commenters do not agree with your assessment.

I also just read a column by George Will that refers to identity politics. He describes it as, "A person is what his or her race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference is, and members of a particular category can be represented -- understood, empathized with -- only by persons of the same identity."

Also in that column: a quote, perhaps a telling one, from a speech Ms. Sotomayor made in 2001, called "A Latina Judge's Voice":

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Full text: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/us/politics/15judge.text.html?_r=1

I hope that she believes that she deserves this position on the Supreme Court because of her work and education, not her ethnicity. This quote makes it sound like she believes otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Approvingly citing, and even repeating, anonymous ad hominem? In the past you've often criticized commenters here for this.

Not one of the juicy direct quotes in the TNR piece has a name tied to it for attribution.

My take on Sotomayor is that most of the criticism of her temperament that I've heard so far sounds very much like what I've heard directed at female academics and female executives who behaved as their male colleagues did - and hence were seen as very abrasive because women are not supposed to be that way.

How bright is she? How much of a scholar is she? Unknown to me. I have yet to look through the large amount of commercial caselaw that's crossed her desk in New York, nor read her opinions about it.

Marty Nemko said...

It's unreasonable to expect jurists, for attribution, to call a potential Supreme Court nomineee, especially a minority, a lightweight, a bully, etc. The New Republic is no right-wing rag and so if it publishes that assertion, I, at least, believe it needs to be given weight in assessing her merit.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't realized until I googled him that Rosen is a law professor.

More than passing odd that he didn't use that talent to look at her decisions and give us his insight into them. My favorite of the responses to the column so far: 'The author's intent was to show that *Sotomayor* lacks intellectual heft? Hmm. Ironic.'

Surprising that the discussion about what's OK for women versus men to do in terms of presenting themselves isn't a topic you'll touch as possibly bearing on this. Surely in your work you've either come across instances of this, or you've come to feel that it's a total myth?

Anonymous said...

I think that Glenn Greenwald does a good job of articulating what's wrong with the article you're referring to-


There are a few other posts from him regarding the situation if you're interested.


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