Bench Memos

He’d Vote “No”

Former senator Rick Santorum on Sotomayor:

In fall 1998, there were concerns expressed about her philosophy, but she was supported by her home-state Republican senator, and her record at the trial court level, while at times problematic, was in the ballpark of acceptable for a circuit judge.

The fact is I voted for about 90 percent of President Bill Clinton’s judicial nominees for district and circuit courts. That is because for district court nominees, most Republicans traditionally give almost dispositive deference to the president and to home-state senators, who have to approve them via the blue slip. If you make a mistake by voting for what turns out to be a bad district court nominee, some appeals court will likely fix the mistake.

The bar is raised for the circuit court nominees because their rulings have broader applicability and are less likely to be “fixed” given the limited number of cases the Supreme Court hears.

But the Supreme Court is the final word on what the law is in our country. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible for the other branches of government to override its decisions.

Senate Republicans should do a thorough examination of Sotomayor’s judicial record: Why does she have such a high reversal rate by the Supreme Court? Are there other decisions like the infamous New Haven firefighters discrimination case that would disqualify her?

Her out-of-court statements about her judicial philosophy have been rightfully making news, including her claim that the appeals court is “where policy is made.”

Or her statement that “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Bias, elitism, the politics of separating people into classes and racial and ethnic pigeonholes are not what one would expect from a nominee of a president who promised to get us past that.

I will be the first to admit, elections have consequences. Obama won, which means that only the naive would have believed that Obama would appoint someone who believed in a strict constructionist approach to the Constitution. But it doesn’t mean that Republicans shouldn’t put up a fight against someone who ignores the Constitution completely.

I voted for Judge Sotomayor in 1998 for the circuit court. Given what is in the public record so far, I would not vote to put her on the Supreme Court.

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