The opening of a spot on the Supreme Court provides a great opportunity for legal commentators to be heard by an audience they normally don’t reach. I assume this explains Jeffrey Rosen’s gossipy piece about Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Rosen reports that some former clerks on Sotomayor’s court (the Second Circuit Court of Appeals) consider her, in the words of one, “not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench.”
I’m not in a position to judge the truth of this assessment, but I rate its value as very low. Law clerks as a group tend to be arrogant, self-important, and immature (fortunately, many shed these traits when they grow up). And, like other sources in these matters, their reports may be based more on a personal preference, such as the elevation of an academic, than on a good faith assessment of Judge Sotomayor.
The path to a valuable early assessment of a judge’s suitability for the Supreme Court lies in an evaluation of that judge’s legal opinions. In this regard, I recommend Ed Whelan’s analysis of Judge Diane Wood (Part I).