Sotomayor, the non-activist judge

An ACLU report on Sotomayor's judicial record concludes that her political beliefs are difficult to characterize.


Vincent Rossmeier
June 9, 2009 12:09AM (UTC)

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been blasted by the right ever since her name surfaced as President Barack Obama's nominee to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court. Republicans like Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Fred Barnes have assailed her as a reverse racist and a liberal activist, and have also claimed that she's intellectually unqualified to become a justice on the nation's highest court.

But few of her critics have based their assessments on an appraisal of her record as a judge. In a new study titled "Report of the American Civil Liberties Union on the Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court," the rights organization takes a close look at Sotomayor's rulings. The ACLU concludes that Sotomayor is far from an activist judge. In fact, the report's authors write:

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Judge Sotomayor’s judicial opinions reflect a detailed attention to the facts and a close regard for precedent. They are carefully reasoned but do not engage in broad discussions about constitutional philosophy or competing modes of constitutional interpretation. Because Judge Sotomayor’s opinions are so fact-based and rarely stray far from well-established precedents, they are often difficult to characterize as either liberal or conservative.

While Sotomayor has never directly addressed such key issues as abortion, gay rights, the death penalty and presidential power, the ACLU report paints a picture of a judge who lets established law -- and not her personal experience or identity -- guide her decisions, even on matters of race.

Below is the introduction of the ACLU 's report. The entire document can be downloaded here.


Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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