Che Guevara in robes?

That’s how a friend of mine refers to Sonia Sotomayor. He’s joking, I think.

For a more balanced assessment, here is the lawyers’ evaluation of Judge Sotomayor from the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which on balance depicts a competent but not highly distinguished very liberal rather unpleasant jurist:

Most lawyers interviewed said Sotomayor has good legal ability. “She is very good. She is bright.” “She is a good judge.” “She is very smart.” “She is frighteningly smart. She is intellectually tough.” “She is very intelligent.” “She is a good judge, but not quite as smart as she thinks she is.” “She has a very good commonsense approach to the law.” “She looks at the practical issues.” “She is good. She is an exceptional judge overall.” “She is smart. She is not as intellectual as some.” “It is fair to say she has done better than many people predicted. I’d say she is in the bottom of this court –but, the competition is pretty stiff.” “She is one of the few civil rights lawyers to be appointed to the court. Sometimes I think she is at war with herself. In her heart I think she still thinks from the bottom up.

When you argue before her you have the sense that she is waiting for you to give her a reason to win. If you don’t give it, she will rule against you.” “I am not too impressed with her. She is bright, but doesn’t always get the facts.”

Sotomayor can be tough on lawyers, according to those interviewed. “She is a terror on the bench.” “She is very outspoken.” “She can be difficult.” “She is temperamental and excitable. She seems angry.” “She is overly aggressive –not very judicial. She does not have a very good temperament.” “She abuses lawyers.” “She really lacks judicial temperament. She behaves in an out of control manner. She makes inappropriate outbursts.” “She is nasty to lawyers. She doesn’t understand their role in the system –as adversaries who have to argue one side or the other. She will attack lawyers for making an argument she does not like.”

Lawyers said Sotomayor is very active and well-prepared at oral argument. “She is engaged in oral argument. She is well-prepared.” “She participates actively in oral argument. She is extremely hard working and always prepared.” “She dominates oral argument. She will cut you off and cross examine you.” “She is active in oral argument. There are times when she asks questions to hear herself talk.” “She can be a bit of a bully. She is an active questioner.” “She asks questions to see you squirm. She is very active in oral argument. She takes over in oral argument, sometimes at the expense of her colleagues.” “She can be very aggressive in her questioning.” “She can get harsh in oral argument.” “She can become exasperated in oral argument. You can see the impatience.” “You need to be on top of it with her on your panel.”

Most lawyers interviewed said Sotomayor is liberal. “She is liberal.” “She is broadly inclined in a more liberal direction, but is very careful to follow precedent.” “She tends to be liberal.” “She is on the more liberal side of things.” “She is quite liberal.” “She is not necessarily pro-government.” “She is not a government pushover. She is fair.” “She is trying to move to the right.” “She has no discernible leaning.”

Lawyers interviewed said Sotomayor writes good opinions. “Her opinions are O.K, by and large.” “She writes very clear and careful prose in her opinions.” “Her writing is good.” “Her opinions are generally well-reasoned and well-argued.” “She writes well.” “She is a very good writer.” “Her writing is not distinguished, but is perfectly competent.”


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