Judge Sotomayor’s Appointment

It is said that a president’s most long lasting legacy is the Justices he appoints to the Supreme Court of the United States, and given the Obama administration’s mottos of progress and change, it is only fitting that the newly-elected president has nominated Sonia Sotomayor, federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

According to Gallup Polls, Sotomayor has an approximate 54% approval rating among Americans, which is the typical range for past Justices who have gained Senate conformations, but some conservatives and Republican senators have been more openly critical of Sotomayor’s alleged “racism.” Despite this, Republicans said that they would not filibuster her in Senate and the Democratic majority seems to suggest that her confirmation is likely. The debate over Sotomayor’s qualifications will rage on, however, until her confirmation hearings which are set to begin July 13. The following are just a few of the arguments both for and against her confirmation that the media has been taking into account in the public debate over her nomination and appointment.

  • • Pro: The Bush administration and the GOP have been heavily criticized for their alienation of the Hispanic demographic, and the appointment of Sotomayor might prove to be the step that solidifies Latino support for the Democratic Party.
  • • Con: Though Sotomayor is typically described as being a “fair” judge whose decisions were generally centrist in her earlier career, some Democrats and Republicans fear that her background (which is completely unique compared to her fellows Justices) would influence her policy-making. Her critics have denounced her as an activist judge who is too steeped in identity politics to make fair and clear rulings that are based on the law and not just her own experience with politics.
  • • Pro: Sotomayor has an impressive track record that suggests that she is both willing and able to take an active role in advocating change and progress for minorities in this country. She has long advocated the hiring of Latinos and battled discrimination in various forms, from her days at Princeton to her role on the board of directors for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
  • • Con: In a New Republic article appearing in early May, journalist Jeffrey Rosen brings to light some of the opposition Sotomayor is facing not from the right-wing media, but from some of her own former law clerks. Critics of her written opinions argue that they often “miss the forest for the trees” and that her arguments do not differentiate between trivial and significant facts pertaining to a given case.
  • • Pro: Her history suggests that Sotomayor is often willing to take anti-government stances in her decisions, which should be a relief to Republicans who fear that the appointment of an additional liberal judge, combined with the Democratic majority in Senate under Democratic administration, would tip the balance of scales dangerously in favor of the political left, thus threatening the balance of powers.
  • • Con: While Democrats are clearly overjoyed the chance to appoint an additional liberal Justice, some have expressed concerns regarding Sotomayor’s abilities to live up the intellectual standard of the Supreme Court. Democrats expect Obama to appoint a Justice who has the intellectual caliber to change the direction of the Court with their decisions and opinions, and Sotomayor, according to former clerks and those who have worked with her, is not the “brainiest,” despite her impressive background. Some Democrats do not feel that Sotomayor would be enough of an intellectual counterweight against the more conservative Justices.

Liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans and supporters and critics of Sotomayor have made strong respective cases for or against the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States. Whether or not Sotomayor will in fact be confirmed, President Obama and she have at least succeeded in paving the way for America’s minorities in government.

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