Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 5, 2009

SOTOMAYOR PROBABLY VOTED FOR OBAMA, TOO.... Now that Sonia Sotomayor's responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee's questionnaire is online, the race is on to find something interesting. At the National Review, Ed Whelan notes a speech the judge delivered in April in which Sotomayor speaks favorably of the president. Whelan describes her comments as "disturbingly partisan" given her role on the bench.

"The power of working together was, this past November, resoundingly proven." (p. 6)

"The wide coalition of groups that joined forces to elect America's first Afro-American President was awe inspiring in both the passion the members of the coalition exhibited in their efforts and the discipline they showed in the execution of their goals." (p. 7)

"On November 4, we saw past our ethnic, religious and gender differences." (p. 10)

"What is our challenge today: Our challenge as lawyers and court related professionals and staff, as citizens of the world is to keep the spirit of the common joy we shared on November 4 alive in our everyday existence." (p. 11)

"It is the message of service that President Obama is trying to trumpet and it is a clarion call we are obligated to heed." (p. 13)

Whelan argues that Sotomayor casting the president's election in a positive light "seems clearly" to violate the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, because it breaks with the appearance of "impartiality."

This is a real stretch. For one thing, judges expressing some ideological predispositions are about as common as the sunrise. When a sitting jurist signs up for a Federalist Society gathering, or a conference hosted by the American Constitution Society, is he or she necessarily signaling bias? Indeed, as David Weigel noted, "[T]he conservatives on the court, such as Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, are common presences around D.C. conservative events."

Indeed, Adam Serwer reminds us that Scalia and Cheney were not only hunting buddies -- a relationship that might have cast doubt on Scalia's impartiality -- but "there was [also] the time that the conservative majority on the court unilaterally decided that the Republican candidate should be the next president of the United States."

What's more, looking at the specific quotes Whelan referenced, Sotomayor's remarks seemed to address a sense of cultural and civic pride more than obvious partisanship. A lot of Americans, including more than a few Republicans, felt good about the American character in November 2008, and Sotomayor seemed to argue that we would be wise to hold onto that pride going forward.

A disqualifying set of remarks? Hardly. Keep trying, Ed.

Steve Benen 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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Comments

OT: the next rightwing talking point on Obama will concern his supposed attitude toward tomorrow's stop, based on a silly reading of his "stop it" comments.

I'm just going to make that prediction now.

Posted by: JM on June 5, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

As much as I hate to admit it, I am coming to the point where I simply despise republicans. All of them. They are of no use in our society. They are simply the modern version of the KKK. I sincerely hope they get serious about violence, because I am ready to inflict some serious ass bodily damage or worse. That is the only thing that will purge our country of these neanderthals.

Posted by: citizen_pain on June 5, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

IOKIYAR

Posted by: Me on June 5, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

There is a Dilbert in which Dogbert has been nominated for SCOTUS and states before Congress that he has never, in his life, formed an opinion. One of the congressmen asks him if he really expects them to believe he has never formed an opinion. Dogbert replies, "well maybe just one."

Somehow that seems appropriate here.

Posted by: Personal Failure on June 5, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

And don't forget Sandra Day O'Connor's famous reaction when she thought Al Gore was going to win Florida in 2000: "This is terrible...'

Posted by: Nat on June 5, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

As much as I hate to admit it, I am coming to the point where I simply despise republicans.

I reached that point more than 20 years ago, during the '88 campaign. Hatefest Houston '92 sealed the deal forever. I've never voted for a Republican for anything in my entire life. They simply aren't intellectually qualified to govern; hell, most aren't suited to be dog catchers. Quite a few of 'em belong behind bars.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on June 5, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

...there was [also] the time that the conservative majority on the court unilaterally decided...

Supreme Court justices can't decide anything unilaterally. That's why it takes a majority. The court can't even act on its own; it requires parties to lodge justiciable complaints.

Posted by: Grumpy on June 5, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

i can just see sotomayor leading the court in 2012...
a close presidential election...
things break down in florida...
the repub contender appeals to the supremes...

and then sotomayor and her ilk throw the election to obama!
like a bone to a dog!
and then say something odd like they aren't setting a precedent by doing so!

surely the american peeps won't allow such a partisan attack on our democratic form of government, our free and fair elections...

Posted by: neill on June 5, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

snork.

yeah, none of the politicians and political activists who are in the arena for a living have the first idea that judges have political leanings - they're shocked, shocked! - that judges even vote in partisan elections.

look, i've known a lot of talented lawyers who would have made great federal judges and who were interested. they never had a chance. why? because there are a lot of other talented lawyers who also dig politics and grew up working on the campaigns of the local elected officials, and who now donate lots of their money or open their house for events for the US Senator of their party. Who first sets lawyers on the path as federal judges? Who screen the district court judges for nomination to the courts of appeals?

Senators.

So who gets the right credentials to be on the short list for Sup Ct? yep: lawyers with a long history of political activity for their US Senator and Reps. And everyone, including Whelan, who has anything to do with the political process (or practices law) knows it. it is, for better or worse, very hard to become a federal judge these days without being partisan.

theater. and bad political theater at that.

Posted by: zeitgeist on June 5, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's pretty amazing for Republicans to complain about how judges vote when it was Republican judges who put Bush in the presidency in the first place.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on June 5, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Keep trying, Ed.

No, go out and get a real job, maybe as a greeter at Wal-Mart.

Posted by: qwerty on June 5, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Whelan argues that Sotomayor casting the president's election in a positive light "seems clearly" to violate the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, because it breaks with the appearance of "impartiality."

I guess Whelan thought that it was OK for Judge Scalia to declare Duhbya President before the court in which he presided had even decided whether it had jurisdiction to hear the case concerning the 2000 election?

I continue to ask. Why has Scalia not been impeached for this gross judicial misconduct.

Posted by: Marnie on June 6, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Hate to break in on the robot-fest of people who don't really care if what Whelan says is true, but Sotomayor was a sitting federal judge at the time she made her cheerleading comments in favor of Obama. Roberts was not yet a judge when the pro-GOP activities cited took place. As a result, Sotomayor's statments take on the added dimension of someone campaigning for the position to which she has in fact been appointed - the sort of thing judges are not supposed to do. As for Cheney and Scalia going hunting, I suppose liberal standards have changed (once again) since Justice Douglas was a key player in the FDR White House, or since Goldberg and Fortas simultaneously sat on the Supreme Court and advised LBJ as president. It doesn't look particularly good, and I'm glad liberal opinion has reformed somewhat . . . and I look forward to the downward revision of the historical standing of FDR and LBJ, among other Democratic presidents, for violations of ethics similar to the charges made against Republican presidents . . . but Scalia was and is already on the Supreme Court, and has not engaged in overt partisan activity during a campaign, which is the issue here. You probably don't want that 'impeachment' fantasy against Scalia to become reality, Democrats - because, like the proceedings against Bill Clinton, it will bring to light a lot of sketchy behavior on your own side of the aisle, you know?

Posted by: Mark Richard on June 10, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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