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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lawyer's Evaluations of Judge Sonia Sotomayor

As a number of people in the blogosphere have noted, Jefferey Rosen's pieces in the New Republic have tried to swiftboat Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and introduce her to the world in a way that distorts the incredible work and achievements of this gifted and accomplished woman.

Rosen still will not divulge any of his anonymous sources, or put forth anything that resembles a good faith attempt to capture the whole of this person after authentic due diligence.  He has, however, suggested that he has been speaking for some "prominent liberal jurists" who have been following Judge Sotomayor for some time now, and would prefer for her not to be on the bench.  He has also decided to add some hand-picked quotes from one version of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary to support his initial but unresearched conclusion.  I found the quotes odd, not only because I did not recognize the judge in them (though she is very exacting and highly engaged from the bench), but also because they seemed to mirror exactly the very words that Rosen published without any real information oh-so-early in this process: terms like "bully," which these prominent liberal scholars, who have apparently been against her nomination for some time, were feeding him according to his own account. This made me wonder if there hasn't been a campaign brewing for some time against this truly incredible woman--one in which these people may even have been trying to create a record so they could engage in just the sorts of swiftboat tactics that we are now seeing.  And so I looked back at my most recent copy of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary (which is from 2000, and so is a little earlier), and what I found was really very interesting.  Rather than leading you to any conclusions myself, however, why don't you be the judge, after reading the entire "Lawyer's Evaluation" section (and not some cherry-picked portion of it).  I would only add one thing, at the end: "nuff said."  (Or maybe two: What explains these discrepancies?). 

(UPDATE: Does anyone know who Megan Rosen is? I have just been told that she is a recent senior editor of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary. Any relation to Jeff Rosen?")

Lawyer's EvaluationLawyer's raved about Sotomayor's legal skills.  "She is a brilliant judge and has been mentioned as a potential justice on the Supreme Court."  "She's of Supreme Court caliber.  She's very smart."  "She's very smart and well-educated, but she comes from very humble roots and I don't think she's forgotten that.  She's still human.  She's an outstanding judge."  "I liked her when she was on the Southern District of New York, but I think she's doing an even better job now that she has been elevated to the Second Circuit."  "She's brilliant,"  "She's very impressive.  She has really done a good job and made a name for herself." "She's usually right on target." "She's very scholarly." "She's really able to tackle anything. She really is a quick learner." "Even though she's still relatively young, she has a very keen legal mind.  She's outstanding." "She's very well-qualified for the job. She's really very impressive."

Lawyer's found Sotomayor to be demanding.  "I think she's fine."  "She can be tough.  She's not rude in any way, but she's exacting." "She's all business." "I've never had any problem with her, but I know some lawyer's don't care for her temperament." "She can be tough as nails, but, in truth, I think some lawyers give her a hard time or are threatened by her.  She's very accomplished and clearly smart, and, in truth, I think they're intimidated. She has always been decent enough to me." "She's professional.  She's not quite as friendly or as approachable as some of the other circuit court judges are.  She's a little more stern." "She's very smart and well-prepared, and she expects lawyers to rise to her level. She has very little tolerance for lawyers who can't match her intellectually."

Lawyers reported that Sotomayor is an active participant at oral argument.  "She asks some very tough questions." "She really is a good questioner. You have got to be prepared with her." "She's incisive." "She's really [sic] get to the bottom line." "She's fairly active. She asks very good questions. She tends to ask a mix of fact-based and hypotheticals." "She's on the ball at oral argument.  She really listens to responses."

Lawyers found Sotomayor to be moderate-to-liberal in outlook, but said that she is fair in the end.  "She's very ethical." "She really has a lot of principles. I don't think she'd let any bias creep into her decision making." "I think she's absolutely neutral.  I think people on both sides of a case view her as being impartial. I don't know of anyone who has ever had a problem with impartiality with her." "I think she's fairly liberal, but I wouldn't say that her philosophy inappropriately affects her decision-making." "She's really amazing. Even though she was originally appointed to the bench by President Bush, it was President Clinton who promoted her to the appeals court.  I think she's a fine judge and absolutely impartial."

Lawyers said that Sotomayor is moderate-to-conservative in criminal matters. "She's a former prosecutor, and that pretty much says everything." "She has turned out to take a more conservative approach to criminal cases than I would have anticipated." "I would have expected her to be a little more critical of the government and a little more lenient toward defendants. She's been tougher on defendants than I would have thought." "She's fair, but a little more conservative when it comes to criminal cases."

Lawyers said that Sotomayor's legal opinions are well-crafted.  "She's a very good writer." "Her decisions read more like briefs. They're very well-researched." "She really reasons things through." "She applies the law to the facts. She doesn't let emotional arguments get in her way. She's very straightforward as far as that goes. At the same time, she still has a heart. She's not afraid to apply the law as it should be applied even when it's going to cost a defendant."

Posted by Rob Kar on May 12, 2009 at 11:15 PM | Permalink


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