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July 8, 2009

Law professor letter supporting Judge Sotomayor with lots of signatures

This press release from Columbia Law School, which is titled "Nearly 1,200 Law Professors Unite to Back Sotomayor Nomination to Supreme Court," reports on an effort to which I have devotes a bit of time and energy.  Here are the details from the press release:

Daniel Richman, professor of law at Columbia Law School, announced today that 1,181 law professors from across the country have signed a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee in uncharacteristically unified support of the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The letter, which the Committee received today, concludes: “Judge Sotomayor will bring to the Supreme Court an extraordinary personal story, academic qualifications, remarkable professional accomplishments and much needed ethnic and gender diversity.  We are confident that Judge Sotomayor’s intelligence, her character forged by her extraordinary background and experience, and her profound respect for the law and the craft of judging make her an exceptionally well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court and we urge her speedy confirmation.”

Richman, a former chief appellate attorney and assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is one of many legal scholars throughout the country who helped gather signatures.  He said that getting signatories was easy, citing “broad support in law schools for this historic nomination.”...

A complete list of the signatories can be found here.  The complete text of the letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Sen. Jeff Sessions is available here.

As suggested by prior posts like this one and this one, I am supporting of Judge Sotomayor's confirmation not only because her professional history suggests she will be attentive and and helpful to the criminal justice side of the SCOTUS docket, but also because I have been deeply impressed by Judge Sotomayor's commitment to the craft of judging as demonstrated by her extraordinary work in the recent Cavera opinion and in some of her other sentencing opinions.

July 8, 2009 at 02:39 PM | Permalink


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In other news, the sun rose in the East this morning.

Lawprofs who luv Obama are a dime a dozen. Hard to imagine why the average lawprof wouldn't eagerly sign a letter endorsing an Obama nominee who's smart, liberal, has no red flags in her background, and can check off identity politics to boot.

Posted by: anonymous | Jul 8, 2009 3:59:44 PM

What has Sotomayor done that's deeply impressive?

Talent-wise, is she the equal of Judge Sutton, CJ Roberts, Judge Kavanaugh, Judge McConnell, Justice Alito?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 8, 2009 4:13:36 PM

federalist --

Just as a point of information, McConnell is resigning his judgeship to become a professor at my alma mater, Stanford.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 8, 2009 4:36:22 PM

I am not sure what she would need to do to “deeply impress” federalist. I was impressed with her long history of pro bono/volunteer work, though I have not compared it to anyone else’s, and I can’t say at what point it crossed the line from merely good to impressive to deeply impressive.

Anyone who has gone from the projects in the Bronx to Yale and Princeton, the U. S. Attorney’s office, and then to two judgeships requiring Senate confirmation, must have impressed an awful lot of people along the way.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 8, 2009 4:59:48 PM

This endorsement means she is unqualified to even dust or mop the courthouse let alone lead it. These are the thought leaders of the law. Every self-stated goal of every law subject is in failure. Every social and economic problem can be traced to the lawyer profession because it makes 99% of the policy decisions of government.

Under no circumstances should anyone who passed 1L be permitted to sit on a bench, take a legislative seat, nor be in a responsible policy position in the executive.

I got a haircut. I asked the lady what she did to earn the license on the mirror. She went to classes 2000 hours over two years. She took a licensing exam with 200 questions. A licensing official watched her cut the hair of three different types of people. He watched her apply makeup. Is there anyone here, however biased and crazed by cult indoctrination who believes judging is an easier job than cutting hair? Then do untrained amateurs get to sit atop an equal branch of government, knowing nothing about nothing. Like two year olds after a bunch of candy, they just throw things around randomly, messing up.

Judging is nearly unrelated to lawyering. There should be separate judging educations, licensing, tracking, and selection. No lawyer should be allowed to qualify.

Older people who have experienced the burden of decision making should be screened for a judicial temperament (automatically disqualifying Sotomayor, a biased, hate filled, Bronx raised pit bull type feminist). Then they should judging the law for two years. The main indoctrination point of judge school? We obey the law. We do not make the law in insurrection against the Constitution. Then, for a year, they judge cases under supervision. Then they take a single national judge licensing exam. Only licensed judges may be appointed or elected. The ABA, a Commie front organization, should be excluded. Anyone they endorse is a traitor.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 8, 2009 5:00:52 PM

"Talent-wise, is she the equal of Judge Sutton, CJ Roberts, Judge Kavanaugh, Judge McConnell, Justice Alito?"


Posted by: . | Jul 8, 2009 5:04:41 PM

Are these law professors that out of touch with reality and that delusional to think that anyone, let alone U.S. senators, care what they think?

Posted by: SheliaB | Jul 8, 2009 7:21:39 PM

Re: Jul 8, 2009 5:04:41 PM.

I agree. And I don't think too much of anyone them!

(well, maybe CJ Roberts. Time will tell there.)

Posted by: Daniel | Jul 8, 2009 7:57:35 PM

New Haven 20 and a high percentage of her rulings have been overturned by Supreme Court and NO ONE sees any red flags-Geesh!

Posted by: Anon | Jul 8, 2009 8:16:01 PM

And Sotomayor didnt get a single vote for her position at the Supreme Court in Ricci.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 8, 2009 8:42:17 PM

federalist --

There are two features of Sotomayor's handling of the Ricci case even more disturbing than her erroneous result and even more erroneous method of analysis (which, as you note, did not command the agreement of a single Justice).

First, she gave this quite important case the back of her hand and tried in effect to bury it, as was pointed out by Clinton-appointed Judge Jose Cabranes in his dissent from the denial of re-hearing en banc.

Second, the case just reeks of racial favoritism. I would not go so far as to say, as some have, that Sotomayor is a racist, but her focus on identity-based outcomes, which is bad enough in politics, is exponentially worse in law.

Lady Justice wears a blindfold for a reason. But Sotomayor seems all but addicted to peeking outside the blindfold to see who's black and who's white, and who's male and who's female. This is more than a little worrisome.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 8, 2009 9:29:59 PM

Bill, I am well aware of Sotomayor's attempted burial of the Ricci case. That, in my mind, makes her unqualified to be a traffic court judge, let alone a federal appeals court judge. It's one thing to rule against litigants, quite another to try (clumsily, I may add) to bury their case.

As for racist, I guess that depends on what you mean by racist. Since she linked the quality of judging to the race of the judge, one could make that claim. To the extent she uses her position to help members of one race over others, that's well within the definition of racist that has been beaten into our collective consciousness. If "institutional racism" is a valid concept, Sotomayor fits comfortably under the "racist" label. By the way, so does Barack Obama.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 8, 2009 9:50:34 PM

Justice Alito? Really, he made the list of deeply impressive jurists, alongside legit heavyweights like McConnell and Roberts?

It seems to me that he is more or less the right-leaning flip side of the Sotomayor worst-case scenario: a competent, workmanlike, but intellectually unspectacular ex-prosecutor unlikely to set the world on fire with exceptionally incisive legal theories or brilliant writing

(Sotomayor certainly may turn out better than this, but I see this as her likely floor)

Posted by: Observer | Jul 9, 2009 9:46:57 AM

observer, Alito is a far greater legal talent than Sotomayor

Posted by: federalist | Jul 9, 2009 11:49:26 AM

Nearly 1200 law professors - who cares

Posted by: Steve S | Jul 9, 2009 12:10:08 PM

a high percentage of her rulings have been overturned by Supreme Court....

Ummm, no. Actually, her reversal rate is less than the Supreme Court's overall reversal rate.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 9, 2009 12:30:54 PM

Sotomayor's Ricci decision was a joke. No Justice voted for it. Her attempted burial of the case means she has no business being a traffic court judge, let alone a federal appeals court judge.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 9, 2009 12:46:11 PM

Bill, Ricci was a discrimination case. Sotomayor was REQUIRED to "peek outside the blindfold" and consider the race of the participants. You may not agree with the reasoning or the outcome, but you can't knock a judge for considering race in a racial discrimination case.

Do you have any actual examples of Sotomayor letting race or gender influence her decision when those considerations were legally irrelevant to the outcome? If she is "all but addicted" to doing so, there must be plenty. I know you like to demand proof from others, so let's see some from you.

Posted by: CN | Jul 9, 2009 1:03:03 PM

CN, how about the prisoner-disenfranchise case?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 9, 2009 1:07:52 PM

In Ricci, I think we need to distinguish the outcome from the manner in which it was reached.

Eight of the thirteen jurists to have considered the case reached the disposition that Sotomayor did, i.e., the trial court, the three members of the panel on which she sat, and four out of nine justices on the Supreme Court. Moreover, a majority of her colleagues in the Second Circuit denied rehearing en banc. This tells me, not that she was correct, but that she wasn't blatantly incorrect.

I prefer Justice Kennedy's resolution of the case, but the question is not whether she got the law right on this one occasion, but whether she got it so far wrong that it disqualifies her from serving on the Supreme Court. On that point the record is clear: a majority of jurists to have heard the case agreed with her, and a majority of her circuit colleagues denied rehearing en banc.

Now, the manner in which the panel announced its decision (a short unsigned opinion adopting the trial court's reasoning) is harder to defend; yet, a majority of her colleagues elected not to rehear it. This cannot be attributed to partisan differences, as the active judges of the Second Circuit are evenly divided between Republican and Democratic appointees.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 9, 2009 1:48:57 PM

Marc, four of the nine Justices did NOT agree with how Sotomayor resolved it--i.e., SJ for the defendants. And that's not even debatable. Lots is made over FN 10, but what really clinches it is the fact that Ginsburg's opinion does not deal with plaintiff's EPC claims, and those would have had to be dealt with if Ginsburg's opinion is to be considered an affirmance of SJ for the defendants.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 9, 2009 2:05:45 PM

CN --

"Ricci was a discrimination case. Sotomayor was REQUIRED to 'peek outside the blindfold' and consider the race of the participants. You may not agree with the reasoning or the outcome, but you can't knock a judge for considering race in a racial discrimination case."

Nice try, CN, but what you're doing is a play on words. Of course a judge must consider race in a race case. But there is a huge difference between considering race (1) in the sense of looking at what the record discloses about who is getting what on promotion tests, and (2) in the sense of taking off the blindfold to see whether your favored group will benefit from an affirmance. The former is fine; indeed it's what judges should do. The latter illustrates why Lady Justice wears, and should wear, the blindfold to start with.

In this sense, Sotomayor is the perfect exemplar of President Obama's desire for "empathy." The problem with empathy is that it isn't law; indeed, it's the opposite of law. The other problem is that it begs the question of: Empathy for whom? Where was the empathy for the white firefighters who had done absolutely nothing wrong, got scores that would have earned them promotions, but then got dinged because they had the wrong skin color?

If in the year 2009 getting denied a promotion you otherwise would have secured because of the color of your skin isn't racial discrimination, what is?

As to the evidence of Sotomayor's excessive and misplaced attention to race, I refer you to Ed Whalen's Bench Memos in National Review On-line. He has written on this more extensively than I could get away with here.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 9, 2009 3:10:52 PM


Ummm... Marc yes it is a high number when 4 out of her 6 rulings have now been overturned. Take the blind fold off.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 9, 2009 5:04:41 PM

federalist, since you feel that Sotomayor wouldn't cut it on the traffic court, I see why you would say Alito is a "far greater talent." Yet, given your denigration of Sotomayor, that is not saying much.

Not that this is a major point, but I still think Alito was egregiously the weak link when compared to the others on your list of prominent jurists...

Posted by: Observer | Jul 9, 2009 5:08:23 PM

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