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Judge Sonia Sotomayor: An Early Judgment

May 26, 2009

Reading more and more about Judge Sotomayor, it is becoming acutely clear that those labeling her a liberal, activist judge pushing a personal agenda are either (1) blinded by their partisanship to her more moderate, pragmatic approach to jurisprudence or (2) they’re lying about her work and ideas, either to fire up the conservative base to oppose her nomination or to create a more difficult confirmation process that might entangle the Obama administration in some unwanted controversy.

From the biographical and legal review I’ve been able to do this morning, Judge Sotomayor appears to be a tough and sometimes irascible judge (not an uncommon trait in those vested with significant power and responsibility, in my experience) who is respected for being smart and practical. She is not noted for any particularly progressive activism, though she is naturally aware of the importance of her status as a woman, a Puerto Rican and as the product of an economically and personally challenging childhood. Her legal opinions straddle the political left and right and there are, as Stephen L. Carter pointed out, positions to like and to disagree with whichever part of the political spectrum you inhabit. In short, she appears to be a successful jurist, experienced in both the civil and criminal spheres of the law. She has impeccable academic credentials and a history of judicial opinions that are based on the facts and the law but are emphatically not–as many on the right have rushed to claim–subject to her personal or political preferences.

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