‘Activist’ Appellate Judge Obama’s Pick for Supreme Court

No surprise here.

A judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals who once boasted during a conference that it is at that level in the court system where “policy is made” has been named by President Obama to replace the retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a forum at the Duke University School of Law in 2005, Sonia Sotomayor said, “Court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know – and I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don’t make law, I know. OK, I know. I’m not promoting it, and I’m not advocating it, I’m – you know. OK. Having said that, the court of appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating – its interpretation, its application.”

Sotomayor would replace the left-leaning Souter, and speculation was thick today whether she would – or even could – move the court further to the left.

In his announcement, Obama praised Sotomayor as “the kind of justice we need” on the Supreme Court.

He called her “an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice.”

She is the first candidate of Puerto Rican heritage named to the nation’s highest court. Born in the Bronx, the 54-year-old’s father was a tool-and-die worker who died when she was a child. Her mother, a nurse, raised Sotomayor and her brother.

Sotomayor was married in 1976 but was divorced after seven years.

According to Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, Sotomayor is “a liberal judicial activist of the first order.”

Long described Sotomayor as thinking “her own personal political agenda is more important tha[n] the law as written,” and a Fox News commentator said she is neither a consensus-builder nor well-liked by her appellate panel co-workers.

Christian Broadcasting Network commentator David Brody warned the nomination could rebound on Obama.

“He may get her through because he has the numbers in the Senate but his poll numbers showing him as a centrist may take a hit. Keep an eye on Gallup,” he said.

However, because of Souter’s similar leanings, the nomination is unlikely to change the ideological bent of the court immediately.

Democrats have 59 votes in the Senate and would need 60 to clear a Republican filibuster. Also, according to Senate rules, at least one Republican would need to vote for her at the committee level.

Long said Sotomayor’s activism is “exactly what the president has talked about. He likes that. He thinks that liberal judges are so smart and so enlightened and have such great instincts about what policy should be that they should be making the decisions about policy for the rest of us.”

Long contends self-government is “destroyed” when unelected judges begin taking over the function of elected representatives.

Sotomayor was part of a panel on the 2nd Circuit that declined to rule on the merits of a major reverse-discrimination case regarding firefighters in New Haven, Conn. The case is currently in front of the Supreme Court.

“Judge Sotomayor basically buried their claims and tried to throw them out without even really analyzing these very important questions about quotas and reverse discrimination and fairness under the law,” according to Long.

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