Bench Memos

Sotomayor at Bat

We’re hearing that Sotomayor “saved baseball.”  That’s nonsense.  Judge Sotomayor ruled on a NLRB petition seeking an injunction against the owner’s 1995 lockout of the players.  As I noted at the time, the court hearing the matter would be making a straightforward ruling on labor law: and the owners were plainly in the wrong legally by their conduct in the labor negotiations.  Any judge randomly assigned to the case would have made the same ruling.  Indeed, a three judge panel of the Second Circuit, in an opinion by conservative Judge Ralph Winter, unanimously upheld Sotomayor’s grant of the injunction. 

To say that the judge in the case saved baseball (or expressed sympathy for highly paid baseball players, as Kathryn snarks below) is making the very mistake that separates conservative viewpoints on the role of the judiciary from Obama’s view of the judiciary as activist.  A judge acts as an umpire, making the calls of balls and strikes: neither the judge nor the umpire is supposed to decide that one party is more sympathetic than the other and deserves the benefit of the ruling.

Ted Frank is a Washington, D.C., attorney and director of the Center for Class Action Fairness at the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute.

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