The Corner

Sotomayor’s “Affirmative Action Plan for Puerto Rico”

The apparent answer to history professor K. C. Johnson’s question (see “Former (?) Puerto Rican Nationalist Nominated to North American Supreme Court”) about “when Sotomayor ceased being a Puerto Rican nationalist who favors independence”: By the time she was in law school and was instead advocating what law professor Roger Alford (on the Opinio Juris blog) calls an “affirmative action plan for Puerto Rico” statehood. Excerpts from Alford’s post about Sotomayor’s law-review piece:

Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s student note in the 1979 Yale Law Journal is a piece of work. It makes an extravagant case for Puerto Rican statehood based on terms of accession that are more favorable to Puerto Rico than any other state in the Union. Her proposal is a sort of affirmative action plan for what she describes as a “small, economically poor dependency” acquired as a result of the “American experience with colonialism.”

While her legal arguments are complex, her economic and political conclusions are simple: Puerto Rico should become a state and accede to the Union in a manner that grants her ownership rights over the offshore oil, gas and mineral deposits within a two-hundred mile radius of Puerto Rico. It should do so despite the fact that no other state enjoys similar rights and despite over two centuries of federal practice that provide for states to enter the Union “on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever.” …

In short, in proposing preferential treatment for Puerto Rican statehood, Sotomayor manages to provide justifiable grounds to (1) upset environmentalists; (2) upset those sensitive to the equality of states; (3) upset those opposed to affirmative action and preferential treatment; and (4) upset those who do not take kindly to assertions that the United States is a colonial power. I would think almost every United States Senator falls into at least one of those four categories.


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