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Sotomayor v. Obama

By Eva Rodriguez

In a surprisingly sharp, apparently spontaneous and refreshingly candid moment -- especially for a confirmation hearing -- Sonia Sotomayor refused to endorse President Obama's characterization of judges and judging.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) asked, "Do you agree with [the president] that the law only takes you the first 25 miles of the marathon and that that last mile has to be decided by what's in the judge's heart?"

Sotomayor responded:

No, sir….I wouldn't approach the issue of judging in the way the president does. He has to explain what he meant by judging. I can only explain what I think judges should do, which is judges can't rely on what's in their heart. They don't determine the law. Congress makes the laws. The job of a judge is to apply the law. And so it's not the heart that compels conclusions in cases. It's the law. The judge applies the law to the facts before that judge.

Viewers, I think, finally got a flash of the tough and outspoken judge that advocates have come to know.

Still, it is difficult, in my mind at least, to reconcile this unequivocal -- and seemingly heartfelt -- statement with Sotomayor's speeches about how gender and ethnicity may affect a judge's decisions. Rather than to continue to grill Sotomayor about what she said or what she meant I'd, love senators to press her to give a few examples of when her own ethnicity and gender helped inform her decisions.

By Eva Rodriguez  | July 14, 2009; 3:58 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Next: Sotomayor: The Apology Solution


Sotomayor's heart may feel empathetic, but her mind applies the law. Why is it so difficult to understand?

Posted by: seungping | July 14, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

'cause of examples like E. Palo Alto, 'Cali' maybe. Or maybe a reference to the spirit of the law? Anyway, I 'feel' Her answer was good, keeping in mind that no one is perfect. Probably no law is either. ... Her other, more troublesome comment has to raise a lot of eyebrows ... of any color though.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | July 14, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor's heart may feel empathetic, but her mind applies the law. Why is it so difficult to understand?

its difficult to understand how she thinks being a latina would lead her, more often than not, to make a better decision that, say, stephen breyer.

of course, she helped herself by disowning her comments and acknowledging they were stupid.

Posted by: dummypants | July 14, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

It would be extremely hard for me to believe that Alito and Roberts are not influenced by their Catholicism when making judgements. Law is not as black and white as we might like. All judgements are colored by one's experience. Sotomayor is no different.

Posted by: katrinka1 | July 14, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Again, who is eva rodriguez?

Posted by: dudh | July 14, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Again, who is eva rodriguez?

Posted by: dudh | July 14, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

The Republican/neocon machine has everyone believing judicial activism is the moral equivalent of anarchy. This is WRONG. There are, and have been, many times when examples of "judicial activism" have been our country's finest moments: racism, education, sexism, etc. "Judicial activism" is really just another code word (neocons love their codes) for progressive thinking, which they hate. They seize on her one poorly phrased comment as justification for the bile spewed by Sessions and Graham yesterday. And for all the other racist slanders on Sotomayer from the right.

Substitute the word "experienced" for "wise" and "more broadly based and inclusive" for "better" and you have her meaning without the unfortunate pejoratives. But no, these neocon tools have to spin and skew for their self-serving goals. Nobody buys it and history will chew up these obstructionists with the same judgment it is rendering on their heroes, from Reagan to Bush.

Posted by: joebanks | July 15, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Seungping here. It seems to be the "pundits" and legislators that have difficulty understanding the clear statements Judge Sotomayor makes regarding her approach to judging cases before the courts. That would make it more a limitation of understanding than the judge's failure to know her responsibility.

Posted by: Jazzman7 | July 15, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

sir,i read this article.i impress by writer thinking.i am lawyer,i saw practaly in cour that many judjes are give judje ments in favour of their friends and known persons in thes cases mind and heart both responsible for injusticeso ithink their mst must be balance in mind and heart for the honest judjment,this problem is in whole world.thnkyou

Posted by: atiqkhan25yahoocom | July 15, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Katrinka1 wrote:

"It would be extremely hard for me to believe that Alito and Roberts are not influenced by their Catholicism when making judgements."

Don't forget Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas!

Posted by: chaos1 | July 15, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be wonderful if a Supreme Court nominee would appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and make the following statement.

"I believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The United States was designed by the Founders to be, not a democracy, but a constitutional republic, a political system under which government is limited and citizens are free.

“The Declaration of Independence says that ". . .all men . . . are endowed . . . with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness." The Founders said that this was self-evident. (Note: in later versions the right to property was removed because of conflicts over the status of slaves. Slaves should have been freed. The right to property should not have been removed.)

“Further, the Declaration says, "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted . . . ."

“In other words, all men have unalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. The sole function of government is to protect those rights.

“If I am confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court, I intend to enforce laws that protect individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.

“I intend to declare as criminal and punishable any violation of these rights be it by individuals or governments, local state or federal. Further, I will hold that any law enacted by Congress or the Senate or any legislative body of any state, county or city that violates these rights to be unconstitutional.

“And further, I will hold that any edict or order, whatever it is called, issued by the Executive branch of the Federal Government that violates these rights is also unconstitutional.

“I will vote to accept all challenges to existing laws and to amendments made to the Constitution since it's inception where those laws and amendments are in violation of the individual rights the government is instituted to secure.”

Unfortunately, I don’t believe we will hear anything remotely resembling this from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Instead, we will hear evasive and vague answers to questions, denials of previous statements and claims that we just didn’t understand what she said.

Substituting empathy and Latina ethnicity for objective judgement she has clearly disqualified herself from not only sitting on the Supreme Court, but from sitting on any court.

In her opening remarks, she made a fundamental error. She said that fidelity to the law should be the guiding principle in making judgements. The correct principle is fidelity to the Constitution. Otherwise, how would you declare a law to be wrong if the law is the standard?

Recommended reading list:

Man’s Rights by Ayn Rand*
The Nature of Government by Ayn Rand*

*Both essays may be found in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand.

Posted by: 4joewright | July 16, 2009 1:51 AM | Report abuse

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