I’m told that the following “Talking Points” have been sent out to a Listserv of Latino law professors:
The President’s Approach:
â€¢ The President believes that selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is one of his most serious responsibilities. He vowed to seek someone with a sharp and independent mind, and a record of excellence and integrity. As a former constitutional law professor, he believes it paramount to select someone who rejects ideology and shares his deep respect for the Constitutional values on which this nation was founded.
â€¢ But, as the President has made clear, upholding those constitutional values requires more than just the intellectual ability to apply a legal rule to a set of facts. It requires a common sense understanding of how laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor:
â€¢ Judge Sonia Sotomayor embodies those qualities — as someone who brings not only brilliance in the law but a common sense understanding of how the law practically works.
â€¢ Her American story and three decade career in nearly every aspect of the law provide Judge Sotomayor with unique qualifications to be the next Supreme Court justice.
â€¢ She has been hailed as “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity” for her ascent to the federal bench from an upbringing in a South Bronx housing project, and as “one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting” for her thoughtful opinions.
Judge Sotomayor’s Background:
â€¢ Born to a Puerto Rican family, Judge Sotomayor grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Driven by her mother’s belief in the power of education and her own indefatigable work ethic, Sotomayor excelled in school, graduating as valedictorian of her high school class and winning a scholarship to Princeton University. After graduating summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa, she entered Yale Law School, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
â€¢ Out of law school, Judge Sotomayor became an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, where she tried dozens of serious criminal cases over five years and was known as a “fearless and effective prosecutor.”
â€¢ She entered private practice in 1984, and worked as an international corporate litigator handling cases involving everything from intellectual property to banking, real estate and contract law.
Judge Sotomayor’s Judicial Track Record
â€¢ If confirmed for the Supreme Court, Judge Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator, a federal trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and an appellate judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
â€¢ Before she was promoted to the Second Circuit by President Clinton in 1998, she was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush – a show of bipartisan support that proves good judging transcends political party.
â€¢ As a trial judge, she earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into departing from the rule of law. In 1995, Judge Sotomayor ended the baseball strike by issuing an injunction against major league baseball owners.
â€¢ In 1998, Judge Sotomayor became the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country. She has participated in over 3000 panel decisions and authored roughly 400 opinions, handling difficult issues of constitutional law, to complex procedural matters, to lawsuits involving complicated business organizations.
â€¢ Judge Sotomayor is widely admired as a judge with a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine and a keen awareness of the law’s impact on everyday life. She understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts.
â€¢ Known as a moderate on the court, Sotomayor often forges consensus and agreeing with her more conservative nominees far more frequently than she disagrees with them. In cases where Sotomayor and at least one judge appointed by a Republican president were on the three-judge panel, Sotomayor and the Republican appointee(s) agreed on the outcome 95% of the time
â€¢ Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit, said “Sonia is an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind. She brings a wealth of knowledge and hard work to all her endeavors on our court. It is both a pleasure and an honor to serve with her. ”
The Confirmation Process
â€¢ The President is committed to working with the Senate to ensure an orderly and civil confirmation process. The average number of days between nomination and confirmation for the last five Supreme Court justices is 72 days. Justice Roberts was confirmed 72 days after his nomination, and Justice Ginsburg was confirmed in just 50 days.
â€¢ The President believes it is important for the Senate to vote on Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation before the August recess – more than two and a half months away — to allow the new Justice time to prepare and participate when the Court confers in September and selects cases to be heard this year.
The talking point portraying Sotomayor as a “moderate” is probably the most interesting of the batch. This is not the view of lawyers who practice before her, as reflected in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary. As for the claim that she agrees with Republican-appointed colleagues in 95 percent of cases, this statistic will need to be examined against those of other judges. Unlike with the Supreme Court, litigants have an automatic right to appeal to federal courts of appeals such as the one Sotomayor sits on. Thus, unlike the Supreme Court, federal courts of appeal receive a large volume of cases as to which there is no serious controversy.