Huckabee attacks "Maria" Sotomayor

According to Ben Smith over at Politico:

Mike Huckabee comes out hard against the Sonia Sotomayor appointment, with a bit of a misfire as concerns her name:
    The appointment of Maria Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama's campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bipartisan way were mere rhetoric. Sotomayor comes from the far left and will likely leave us with something akin to the "Extreme Court" that could mark a major shift. The notion that appellate court decisions are to be interpreted by the "feelings" of the judge is a direct affront of the basic premise of our judicial system that is supposed to apply the law without personal emotion. If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.--

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0 509/Huck_comes_out_firing__at_Maria_Soto mayor.html

Way to go Huckster. Yup all Latinas are Maria's.

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Obama makes more history with Sotomayor nomination

The big news of the day is that President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she would be the third woman to serve on the high court and the first Hispanic justice of either gender.

Sotomayor reportedly sealed the deal during her interview with the president last Thursday.

Deoliver47 has more background and video clips in this post.

Senate Republicans will try to drag out the confirmation process, but there will be no long-term vacancy on the high court. Justice David Souter has made clear that he will retire once his replacement is confirmed.

I don't know a lot about Sotomayor, but I look forward to learning more. She has the qualities I wanted to see in a Supreme Court nominee, even if she is not as progressive as I would like. At the SCOTUS blog, Tom Goldstein previewed arguments for and against her nomination. Excerpt:

Objectively, her qualifications are overwhelming from the perspective of ordinary Americans.  She has been a prosecutor, private litigator, trial judge, and appellate judge.  No one currently on the Court has that complete package of experience.

On the other hand, this criminal defense attorney who has argued cases before her court isn't too impressed.

On principle, I am glad that a hit piece on Sotomayor filled with anonymous quotes did not derail her nomination. More on that hit piece is here.

Before I open the floor for comments, here's some Supreme Court-related humor from The Onion.

What do you think of Obama's choice?

UPDATE: Greg Sargent points out that"Seven Republicans currently in the Senate voted for the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor in 1998 as U.S. Circuit Court judge[...]." That's not counting Arlen Specter, who also voted to confirm her in 1998 but is no longer a Republican.

SECOND UPDATE: Sports fans may remember that as a U.S. district court judge, Sotomayor ended the baseball strike in 1995.

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More on the Right's Judicial Elitism

Over the weekend, I wrote about a key aspect of the right's strategy on the judiciary -- arguing that every Supreme Court nominee must, in effect, look and sound just like Antonin Scalia. A corollary of the strategy is to call for someone like Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative with the pedigree of Scalia (having served on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit), who during his confirmation hearings purported to approach the judicial decision-making process in much the same way as an umpire approaches a baseball game (that is to say just calling balls and strikes, not changing the strike zone or, in the context of the courtroom, not bending the law). But as Jeffrey Toobin reports in The New Yorker, Roberts isn't living up to his pre-confirmation spin.

Roberts's hard-edged performance at oral argument offers more than just a rhetorical contrast to the rendering of himself that he presented at his confirmation hearing. "Judges are like umpires," Roberts said at the time. "Umpires don't make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire." His jurisprudence as Chief Justice, Roberts said, would be characterized by "modesty and humility." After four years on the Court, however, Roberts's record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation's seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

One case that Toobin cites in his extended piece, which I would highly recommend reading in full, stuck out to me as embodying Roberts' elitist judicial approach, and the elitist approach of conservatives and Republicans more broadly: Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1. In his opinion for the Supreme Court in the case, Roberts in effect overturned the seminal Brown v. Board of Education decision (or at least the major thrust of it) under the guise of upholding it. Where the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren struck down segregation in America's public schools in Brown, leading to a period of integration, Roberts' narrow majority in the Seattle case barred states from taking even narrow steps towards desegregation. Here's Toobin:

In the most famous passage so far of his tenure as Chief Justice, Roberts wrote, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Roberts's opinion drew an incredulous dissent from Stevens, who said that the Chief Justice's words reminded him of "Anatole France's observation" that the "majestic equality" of the law forbade "rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread." For dozens of years, the Court had drawn a clear distinction between laws that kept black students out of white schools (which were forbidden) and laws that directed black and white students to study together (which were allowed); Roberts's decision sought to eliminate that distinction and, more generally, called into question whether any race-conscious actions by government were still constitutional. "It is my firm conviction that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today's decision," Stevens concluded.

This is what the right's judicial elitism brings: Supreme Court decisions that are almost wholly divorced from reality. Yes, through an act of rhetorical jujitsu one could argue that Seattle upholds rather than overturns Brown -- but at it's heart, it comes to a nearly opposite conclusion, allowing public schools to be more segregated rather than more integrated. At the least, it's extremely difficult to see how this type of convoluted reasoning exemplifies calling balls and strikes rather than shifting the strike zone.

Barack Obama has signaled that he will largely tune out the voices from the elitist right, insisting instead that the next Supreme Court Justice possess a quality he calls "empathy," or understanding of the real world consequences of their actions (a quality that it not always present on the Court today). And while I do not think this means that the President should forgo from consideration the type of jurists the right would like see placed on the Court -- namely those, like Scalia and Roberts, who served on a federal appellate court, preferably in the D.C. Circuit -- he would be well served to strongly consider (as he appears to be doing) those with more diverse legal backgrounds, including in elective office, who have spent their careers trying to understand and reflect the values and hopes of the citizens their decisions will impact.

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The Right's Elitism on Judges

Bumped from yesterday -- Jonathan

Listening to conservatives and Republicans argue in recent days that only current appellate court judges are qualified to serve on the United States Supreme Court, it struck me just how elitist the right had become on the issue of the judiciary.

No doubt, being in law school, reading dozens if not hundreds of Supreme Court decisions over the past two years, this notion had already begun to become clear to me. The extent to which judicial conservatives have isolated themselves in ivory towers in recent decades, disregarding the actual effects of their ideologically driven decisions (or, in the parlance of Barack Obama, lacking "empathy"), has been hard to swallow for someone like me who fashions himself a pragmatist.

But the latest debate stands out nevertheless. Is there really such a thing as one, uniquely qualified Supreme Court nominee, no others in the legal community around the country could match? And does such a nominee necessarily have to have the exact same profile as Antonin Scalia? Because that seems to be what this is all about. Indeed, ever since Scalia was approved by the Senate in 1986, every single successful nominee to the Supreme Court has had Scalia's profile as a former federal appellate judge, and five of ten overall nominees (including three nominees either rejected by the Senate or withdrawn by the President) were, like Scalia, sitting on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals when nominated. Prior to Scalia, fewer than half of all successful nominees during the post-war era had served on a federal appellate court, and just two of nineteen successful nominees during the period served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

This isn't to say that I am trying to occupy the space once held by the late Roman Hruska, who famously said in defense of Richard Nixon's failed nomination of G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court, "Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos." I am not defending mediocrity. What's more, I do not think for a minute that federal appellate judges, whether on the D.C. Circuit or elsewhere, should be removed from consideration as potential successors to Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court.

But there are plenty of members of the legal community in this country who do not currently serve on a federal appellate court who would make very strong Supreme Court Justices, just as plenty of Justices in the past have been devoid of federal appellate experience before joining the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Earl Warren, late of my alma mater and a Governor and state Attorney General before joining the Supreme Court, immediately comes to mind as the exemplar of a Justice who succeeded despite not having previously served on a federal appellate court. Others, from Sandra Day O'Connor to William Brennan to Thurgood Marshall all had exceedingly distinguished careers on the Supreme Court without fitting Scalia's profile.

So while conservatives and Republicans hew to their elitist view that President Obama must appoint someone just like Justice Scalia to the Supreme Court, a fierce ideologue who seems to care little about the impact his decisions will have on actual people around the country, I am glad to hear that the President prizes empathy as an attribute necessary for the next Supreme Court Justice and hope he tunes out those on the right arguing that he must limit his choices to current federal appellate judges.

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Is Obama being arrogant about his S.Ct. pick and conservative controversy?

This will not be a long diary, but is Obama being arrogant about the impact of whomever he picks as a nominee for the Supreme Court?

If this article is true, I would say there is a level of arrogance to him that bothers me:

http://www.postchronicle.com/commentary/ article_212228373.shtml


If the past 100 days are any indication, W.'s nomination of Miers will end up looking like sheer genius when compared to Obama's choice to replace David Souter.

Consider the following sign which is now posted in the main window of the Oval Office:

Help Wanted!

Street savvy victim of racism and bigotry needed for lifetime, guaranteed government job in Washington, D.C.

Pro-choice atheist people of color with bilingual skills, clean IRS record, and ACORN experience encouraged to apply.

Background in Constitutional law not mandatory, but will be considered a plus. Must be willing to oppose powerful white male co-workers on a daily basis in collaboration with a tired old Jewish lady on her last legs.

Bring your genealogical history printout showing a pattern of slavery and or racial discrimination against you or your ancestors to the front door. Ask for BHO.

White males need not apply.

Confidential sources (Republican moles) within the administration say the White House has already received more than 1,000 applications and has started a "short list" which, so far, includes the following luminaries:

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California)

Angela Davis, former College professor

Sonia Sotomayor, a front runner because she is a woman and Hispanic, AKA, a "two-fur."

Asked to comment on Obama's racist and sexist screening criteria, a high-level administration source replied that the president has vowed to be very thoughtful and careful in selecting the female minority he ultimately nominates!

I am going to make a prediction right now- no matter who he picks, he will receive criticism from the Left, Right, and Center. Judging from the harsh criticism he is receiving before he has announced his nominee, I think it is safe to assume that he should pass on making any nomination at all at this time - after all, a man who lacks enough life experience to merit an honorary degree from Arizona State 'University' should not be presumptuous enough to think he's qualified to make a decision that could influence the future direction of the Highest Court in the Land!

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Diaries

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