Thursday, May 28, 2009


The Sotomayor Record

SCOTUS Blog has a nice rundown of Sonia Sotoymayor's circuit court rulings.  

As Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings points out, the Pappas vs. Giuliani case shows that Sotomayor isn't necessarily locked into a PC "minority grievance" mindset.  Sotomayor wrote a dissent, supporting the plaintiff -- a staff support employee for the New York City police department who was fired for sending anonymous  racist material to a charity.  Sotomayor argued that the NYPD's action violated the plaintiff's First Amendment rights. She also didn't accept the majority argument that NYPD's action was warranted for broader public policy reasons -- that it would hamper the organization's ability to keep order if it were learned that an avowed racist was employed there.  

Sotomayor argued that this wasn't an on-the-beat cop or anyone who had regular interaction with the public.  

One can disagree with Sotomayor's conclusion. But she clearly has an interesting, nuanced view that calls for a wide preference toward First Amendment claims.  

Just one case, but an intriguing one.

Meanwhile, here is the complete text of the speech the judge gave with the controversial line that has some people -- including a certain former boss of mine -- calling Sotomayor a racist. Read the full speech yourself. It may not win any awards for eloquence, but I think the broader argument that she makes -- that it is impossible for a judge (or, arguably, anyone) to completely divorce one's experiences when making a decision -- is actually a fair one. Sotomayor concludes, however, that it is better to be aware of all of those biases -- or baggage, one might say -- when bringing them to the task at hand.  And, yes, that means working within the law to come to correct decision.  

Anyway, that's how I read it. I wouldn't call her a racist, though her view on how much of a role experience might/would/should play in decision-making is a more than reasonable line of inquiry for a Republican -- or any -- senator to pursue in confirmation hearings.  As for Newt, of all people, he should know better than to take one line out of a speech and make a complete assertion about someone's mindset. Remember, "wither on the vine," Newt?  That was a line in a speech where he said that he thought the Health Care Financing Administration  bureaucracy running Medicare needed to be gotten rid of.  

That, of course, ended up getting reported as Gingrich -- and, by extension, Republicans as a whole -- wanted Medicare to "wither on the vine."  Funny how context matters.  

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