Liberal Group Praises Sotomayor's Criminal Justice Rulings
By Jerry Markon
To the liberal Alliance for Justice, Sonia Sotomayor is a careful, moderate judge who adheres to precedent and issues rulings that are tough on criminals and prosecutors alike.
The conservative Judicial Confirmation Network sees the Supreme Court nominee differently: as a liberal judicial activist who lets her own ethnicity affect her judging.
The differing portrayals of President Obama’s choice for the high court come as outside groups have begun weighing-in with their own appraisals of her 17-year record on the federal bench. Alliance for Justice issued the latest report today, praising Sotomayor’s approach to criminal justice issues.
Liberal supporters of Sotomayor have been preparing most of the reports, and the White House -- seeking to build a case for the nominee -- has been quietly guiding the network of law enforcement organizations, Latino groups and others that want to see her confirmed.
Each of the groups and advocates that have issued reports said they worked independently of the White House. But a spokesman for one said the research on Sotomayor’s record was sent to Stephanie Cutter, a White House adviser charged with guiding the confirmation process, two days before it was released publicly.
“We got a green light,’’ said the spokesman, who did not want himself or his organization identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. “If they had said ‘don’t paint the cases in a particular light or release it on this particular day,’ then I suppose we wouldn’t have."
A White House official, who also would not be quoted by name, said the administration appreciates “the support from a broad array of organizations the nomination has received” but is “certainly not dictating what reports groups are producing."
In a conference call today to discuss its 23-page report on Sotomayor’s record on criminal justice, Alliance for Justice emphasized her experience on the subject as a longtime judge and as a former prosecutor in New York.
“She is an extremely thorough, extremely careful, very restrained judge,’’ said William Yeomans, the organization’s legal director. “She comes across as someone who is pretty strong on law-and-order issues."
The alliance, which has long experience in Supreme Court confirmation battles, issued a report last week that said Sotomayor “has a careful, cautious, and reasoned approach to access to justice issues." It promises new studies of Sotomayor’s record in coming weeks.
Others that have reported on aspects of the nominee’s judicial history include the American Civil Liberties Union and the office of Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The ACLU report attempted to rebut criticism of Sotomayor’s pride in her Latina heritage and her record on civil rights and civil liberties issues, saying that her “life experience may have helped her to appreciate the impact of discrimination in the real world, but she has nevertheless rejected discrimination claims that she found were not supported by the facts or the law." The ACLU has not taken a position on Sotomayor's nomination.
The report by Schumer’s staff focused on immigration, with the Senator concluding that her record on immigration cases is “well within the judicial mainstream.’’
On the conservative side, Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, said “these ‘studies’ are meaningless in trying to determine how Sotomayor will rule as a Supreme Court Justice.’’
Long said her group will continue to focus on “the important cases," such as the controversial order by a three-judge panel -- including Sotomayor -- that upheld the decision of New Haven, Conn., to throw out the promotion test it had given city firefighters when no African Americans and two Hispanics qualified for advancement.
“She is a liberal judicial activist, and someone who thinks that her own gender and ethnicity and experiences and personal views are properly brought to bear on her judicial decision-making. This is wrong," Long said.
She added: “We won’t be handing out any such reports."
Web Politics Editor
June 16, 2009; 3:36 PM ET
Categories: Supreme Court
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