Monday, July 13, 2009

Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings: Must Avoid TV?

Since it's a done deal, there seems to be little reason to watch the Sotomayor confirmation hearings either live or on replay. Unless there are some interesting fireworks, it will just be more political theater--and boring at that. Better off watching Animal Planet or NatGeo. One thing is for sure: she will be treated with far more civility by the opposition in stark contrast to the horrible ordeal that Judge Bork, and Justices Thomas, Roberts, and Alito were forced to undergo. And unlike Miguel Estrada, whose federal court nomination was unfairly filibustered by the Democrats into oblivion despite his compelling personal story and superb credentials, she will get an up-or-down vote. [Then-senator Obama voted against both Roberts and Alito, and supported the Estrada filibuster.]

We've already proposed a a few questions to ask the judge. However, Stuart Taylor of the National Journal again does some excellent work in connection with the judge's questionable role in the Ricci appeals court decision:
For all the publicity about the Supreme Court's 5-4 reversal of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's decision (with two colleagues) to reject a discrimination suit by a group of firefighters against New Haven, Conn., one curious aspect of the case has been largely overlooked.
That is the likelihood that but for a chance discovery by a fourth member of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, the now-triumphant 18 firefighters (17 white and one Hispanic) might well have seen their case, Ricci v. DeStefano, disappear into obscurity, with no triumph, no national publicity and no Supreme Court review.
The reason is that by electing on Feb. 15, 2008, to dispose of the case by a cursory, unsigned summary order, Judges Sotomayor, Rosemary Pooler and Robert Sack avoided circulating the decision in a way likely to bring it to the attention of other 2nd Circuit judges, including the six who later voted to rehear the case....
But the case came to the attention of one judge, Jose Cabranes, anyway, through a report in the New Haven Register. It quoted a complaint by Karen Lee Torre, the firefighters' lawyer, that she had expected "'a reasoned legal opinion,' instead of an unpublished summary order, 'on what I saw as the most significant race case to come before the Circuit Court in 20 years.'"
According to 2nd Circuit sources, Cabranes, who lives in New Haven, saw the article and looked up the briefs and the earlier ruling against the firefighters by federal district judge Janet Arterton. He decided that this was a very important case indeed, and made a rare request for the full 2nd Circuit to hold an en banc rehearing.
Cabranes, like Sotomayor a Clinton appointee of Puerto Rican heritage -- and once a mentor to her -- was outvoted by 7-6, with the more liberal judges (including Sotomayor) in the majority. But by publishing a blistering June 12, 2008, dissent Cabranes brought the case forcefully to the attention of the Supreme Court.

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