Radically enthralled

As we learn more about Judge Sotomayor’s past, a pattern emerges — her prospensity to be swept away by whatever radical cause or theory to which she is exposed that relates to her identity.

In her senior thesis at Princeton, Sotomayor wrote that she is a Puerto Rican nationalist who favors independence from the United States. This was a “fringe” position among Puerto Ricans, as Sotomayor effectively acknowledged when she noted that in the then-most-recent referendum, less than 1 percent of them voted in favor of independence.

In her thesis, Sotomayor punctuated her radical nationalism by referring to the United States Congress as the “North American Congress” or the “mainland Congress.” At least she didn’t call it the “running dog imperialist Congress.” As Princeton’s former president William Bowen says, she was always respectful.

As a law school student, Sotomayor no longer advocated Puerto Rican independence. She now favored statehood, but on radical terms. Sotomayor made her case in her law review note. According to Roger Alford:

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.”

By the mid 1990s, at the latest, Sotomayor was under the sway of feminist legal dogma. This is evident from a 1994 speech on “Women in the Judicary.” Here, in a preview of her more notorious 2001 “Wise Latina” address, Sotomayor takes on the view of Justice O’Connor and New York federal Judge Miriam Cedarbaum that men and women should not (and that good judges do not) rule based upon their own gender. As Wendy Long points out, Sotomayor argued that women make different and “better” decisions than men, better meaning “a more compassionate, and caring conclusion.”

Here, as in the “Wise Latina” speech, Sotomayor tosses around the views of the radical feminist law professor Martha Minnow, her law school classmate. In particular, she refers to Minnow’s rather sophomoric response to Justice O’Connor’s claim that a wise old female judge will reach the same conclusion as a wise old male judge — that there is no universal definition of “wise.”

In her “Wise Latina” speech of 2001, Sotomayor lifted the “feminist jurisprudence” of the 1994 address to posit a “Latina jurisprudence.” In a sense, that speech synthesized the ethnic radicalism of her Princeton and Yale law school days with the radical feminist theories she had picked up from the writings of Professor Minnow and others.

If Judge Sotomayor has been shaped by her life experiences, it must be said that those experiences included exposure to whatever radical theories blew through her consciousness. As a former campus radical, I can relate to this. But by the time she gave the “Wise Latina” speech, Sotomayor was in her mid-40s — old enough to resist intellectual fads and old enough to be held fully accountable for her words.

In the very recent past, Sotomayor appears to have refrained from outlandish pronouncements. This, I suspect, has more to do with her emergence on the short list of likely Supreme Court nominees under a Democratic president than with increased intellectual maturity.

What fad might capture Sotomayor’s fancy as a Supreme Court Justice? My candidate would be Obama worship.

JOHN adds: Paul’s prediction appears to have been prescient.


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