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Early Thoughts on Sonia Sotomayor

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Before this chance passes me by, I wanted to put down my early thoughts on Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the judge President Obama has nominated to replace Justice Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.  At this point, I’m not thrilled with the choice.  Now, that’s not to say I don’t like her as the nominee.  What I am concerned about is her track record.  I don’t care too much that she is a woman, nor that she is a Hispanic.  I do believe the Supreme Court could use a little more diversity, as long as it’s not diversity for diversity’s sake.

Back to her track record: what little I’ve seen so far doesn’t encourage me.  I’m unsure whether she’ll stand up for actual people.  In contrast, I knew quickly after their nominations that Samuel Alito and John Roberts definitely would not stand up for actual people.  They had track records establishing that mindset.  What I’ve read about Sotomayor indicates at best a mixed message.  Will she be as strong an advocate for American citizens as Alito and Roberts are for corporations and the elite?  If not, that’s not change; that’s not progress, both of which this country is in desperate need.

Indeed, reading this article raises plenty of questions I’d like answered.  This paragraph in particular caught my attention:

Yet Sotomayor did not live her entire childhood in a housing project in the South Bronx — she spent most of her teenage years in a middle-class neighborhood, attending private school and winning scholarships to Princeton and then Yale.

That’s not the story President Obama wanted highlighted, which means his introduction of Sotomayor comes across as disingenuous.  If she rose up out of the projects into a middle-class neighborhood and attended a private school, say so.  Let the American people ascertain the true Sotomayor, not the version the White House wants spun.

Judge Sotomayor has a track record of voting with conservative judges in District Court, not liberal judges.  That’s worrisome to me.  President Obama was elected by the largest margin in 20 years.  Democrats control the House and Senate by a large margin.  If liberals can’t get a proud, strong liberal nominated to the Supreme Court at this point in time, it won’t happen for the next couple generations.

The corporate media did a very poor job of accurately describing Bush’s nominees’ character and voting tendencies.  They are the most radical judges nominated in years.  They aren’t strict constitutionalists – they vote to overturn law more than the other Supreme Court judges.  What happened was the extremist right-wing set the frame for Democrats to have a hard time getting the truth out about ultra-conservatives nominated to the bench.  By claiming liberal judges were the activists, supposedly “legislating from the bench”, they prevented the same kind of criticism from being leveled at their nominees, even though the records clearly show which judges are activists and which aren’t.  Bush forced the Supreme Court so far to the right that President Obama should have nearly been forced to nominate someone to try to balance the tilt back toward the center.  By nominating Sotomayor using language like “moderate”, the balance will not likely shift back.  Replacing Justice Souter with someone who is more conservative than he is pushes the Court that much further out of balance.

I sincererly hope my initial read on Judge Sotomayor is incorrect.  I hope she stands up for Americans’ rights and works to limit corporations’ rights.  I hope she will prove to be a strong counterbalance to the extremists Bush appointed.  Some of this might come out in confirmation hearings this summer.  It will unfortunately take many decisions on the Court before a clear picture emerges.  I hope it won’t be too late once that happens.

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