The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008

Archives

Supreme Court

Court Watch: Sotomayor's Dissents -- and Temperament

By Garance Franke-Ruta
• The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen leaves behind questions of courthouse manners for an article that examines the "Sonia Sotomayor you don't know" through a study of her judicial dissents.

"It's often in dissents that appellate judges can express their true selves--their passions, judicial philosophies, and unique views of the law. And Sotomayor's little-noticed dissents are clearly the opinions in which she has the greatest personal investment. Unlike her majority opinions, her dissents sometimes show flashes of civil-libertarian passion or indignation, even as they remain closely grounded in facts and precedents. Most important, they are substantively bold, staking out unequivocal liberal positions--from a broad reading of the Americans with Disabilities Act to sympathy for the due-process rights of a mentally ill defendant," Rosen writes.

"Sotomayor, who published 226 majority opinions on the merits during her more than ten years on the appellate court, published only 21 dissents--a rate slightly below average for appellate judges. Although not always ideologically predictable, they are far more liberal than her majority opinions: According to Stefanie A. Lindquist of the University of Texas, Austin, 63 percent of her dissents can be characterized as liberal, as opposed to 38 percent of her majority opinions. (Only five of the 21 dissents are clearly conservative.) It's in these dissents that a different view of Sotomayor emerges: a judge who can be both crusading and open-minded."

• At The Post, Michael D. Shear takes a look at White House efforts to guide Sotomayor's supporters. "With less than a month before congressional hearings begin on Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, the White House is trying to quietly guide what staffers describe as an unusually broad network of law enforcement organizations, liberal allies, legal officials, Latino groups and women's organizations that want to see her confirmed," he writes.

"Many of the groups have been biding their time for eight years, champing at the bit as they watched their conservative counterparts usher candidates into seats on the court. That makes the challenge of maintaining message discipline even more difficult for an Obama team that campaigned for the presidency with supreme confidence in its tightly controlled operations."

• And Nina Totenberg at NPR takes on the question of "Is Sonia Sotomayor Mean?" by doing a compare and contrast of Sotomayor's questioning style with that used by the men on the Supreme Court. Her conclusion: "if Sotomayor sometimes dominates oral arguments at her court -- if she is feisty, even pushy -- then she would fit right in at the U.S. Supreme Court."

Totenberg also cites an earlier attempt to neutrally evaluate complaints about Sotomayor's style. "Judge Guido Calabresi, former Yale Law School dean and Sotomayor's mentor, now says that when Sotomayor first joined the Court of Appeals, he began hearing rumors that she was overly aggressive, and he started keeping track, comparing the substance and tone of her questions with those of his male colleagues and his own questions.

"'And I must say I found no difference at all. So I concluded that all that was going on was that there were some male lawyers who couldn't stand being questioned toughly by a woman,' Calabresi says. 'It was sexism in its most obvious form.'"

Posted at 1:15 PM ET on Jun 15, 2009  | Category:  Supreme Court
Share This: Technorati talk bubble Technorati | Tag in Del.icio.us | Digg This
Previous: POTUS Events: Focus on Health Care | Next: On Health Care, the Messenger Changes, But Questions Remain the Same


Add 44 to Your Site
Be the first to know when there's a new installment of The Trail. This widget is easy to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry on The Trail.
Get This Widget >>


Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



"


If I were to say:
"I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a Latina female who hasn’t lived that life.” Would that sound racist to you? I certainly hope it would.

Let us not place a biased entity on the highest court in the land.

Posted by: primegrop | June 15, 2009 2:41 PM
"

----------------------------->

Republicans set the precedent for racism by putting Alito on the court who's membership in an anti-woman, anti-minority group at Princeton pretty much sealed the deal. Hard to stuff that genie back in the bottle, huh? Too late, you lose, America loses, that's life. I guess the big difference between the two parties is that the right wing whines a hell of a lot more when they are subject to the consequences of their actions.

Posted by: tweldy | June 16, 2009 1:35 PM

"but not one from the many who've encountered her and come away upset?"

Isn't it rather the nature of being a judge to have some people come away upset after encountering you?

primegrop, if I were to scan through every pronouncement you ever made and find *one* that sounds somewhat awkward, would that make you a racist?

Posted by: nodebris | June 15, 2009 4:46 PM

Totenberg's analysis was feeble. We get a quote from a guy who says it's sexism, but not one from the many who've encountered her and come away upset?

One of the worst, lopsided pieces she's ever done.

Posted by: tonynelson1 | June 15, 2009 3:18 PM

"Now we're questioning Sotomayor's 'temperament'?

Yes, the GOP is doing just that. And like you point out, it's chauvinist.

Lindsey Graham, SC, admits having problems with Sotomayor's 'temperament'. As NPR pointed out, when the subject of Scalia was brought up, Graham characterized that justice as "forceful", in a complimentary way. Graham then characterized Sotomayor as a bully. Thus it ever is in our sexist society - a man who is combative, dismissive, sarcastic, critical, skeptical, outspoken... is forceful. A woman of the same mold has a temperament problem and is a mean bully.

And of course, if the person were African American, then they'd be an "angry black" as well.

Posted by: hitpoints | June 15, 2009 2:44 PM

If I were to say:
"I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a Latina female who hasn’t lived that life.” Would that sound racist to you? I certainly hope it would.

Let us not place a biased entity on the highest court in the land.

Posted by: primegrop | June 15, 2009 2:41 PM

Now we're questioning Sotomayor's "temperament"? Is that some racist/chauvinist code word? Smacks of GOP rants infiltrating media coverage...

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | June 15, 2009 1:59 PM

FINALLY, A SIGN FROM TEAM OBAMA THAT IT IS SERIOUS ABOUT RESTORING HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS IN AMERICA.

• But when will the Obama administration take down the Bush-Cheney era "extrajudicial targeting and punishment matrix"...

...a vigilante-based police state apparatus that is using covertly implanted GPS tracting devices and silent, injury- and illness-inducing microwave radiation "directed energy weapons" to stalk and torture unjustly "targeted" American citizens and their families?

Team Obama and mainstream media, please read this:


http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | June 15, 2009 1:47 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2009 The Washington Post Company