Sonia Sotomayor has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since October 1998. She has been hailed as “one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting” for her thoughtful opinions, and 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.
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. She is a distinguished graduate of two of America's leading universities. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. Before she was promoted to the Second Circuit by President Clinton, she was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. She replaces Justice Souter as the only Justice with experience as a trial judge.
Judge Sotomayor served 11 years on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country, and has handed down decisions on a range of complex legal and constitutional issues. If confirmed, 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. 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.”
In addition to her distinguished judicial service, Judge Sotomayor is a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was also an adjunct professor at New York University Law School until 2007.
The question uppermost in my mind about Sotomayor is her stance on Presidential power. Glenn Greenwald at Salon has been writing about Obama's preventive detention proposal and yesterday he mentioned Charlie Savage discussing the question of the expansion of executive power. Today he praises the nomination, but specifically notes the lack of information about Sotomayor's position on executive power:
There are many vital issues that Sotomayor should be asked about, obviously including her views on executive power limits, which -- as Charlie Savage noted this weekend -- are largely unknown. One's view of her selection should be shaped by things that are as yet unknown. But judging strictly from what is known, Obama deserves substantial credit for this choice. There were choices available to him that would have been safer among the Respectable Intellectual Center (Diane Wood) and among the Right (Elena Kagan). At his best, Obama ignores and is even willing to act contrary to the standard establishment Washington voices and mentality that have corrupted our political culture for so long. His choice of Sotomayor is a prime example of his doing exactly that, and for that reason alone, ought to be commended.
I am slightly more comfortable with Obama wielding unchecked executive power than Bush doing so. But both make me uncomfortable -- possibly so uncomfortable that I would refuse to move back to the US and be subject to them. There is always a swing of the pendulum, and whatever powers you grant to someone you believe worthy of them will eventually be thrust into the hands of someone who isn't.
I hope to see discussion of executive power during the confirmation hearings but doubt that I will.