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May 04, 2009

SCOTUS Stuff...Sessions To Lead GOP On Senate Judiciary. Sotomayor Not That Smart?

First the good news...Sen. Jeff Sessions will replace cowardly turncoat Arlen Specter as the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary committee. For the official Ace of Spades HQ positions on Jeff Sessions, check out this post. Short version...he's just a mustache away from being as cool as John Bolton.

As for the presumptive front runner to replace the lackluster David Souter, it turns out aside from a nifty bio, she may not be the brightest star in the liberal legal firmament. This isn't an attack from the right but a writer on the left in The New Republic.

But despite the praise from some of her former clerks, and warm words from some of her Second Circuit colleagues, there are also many reservations about Sotomayor. Over the past few weeks, I've been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

...Some former clerks and prosecutors expressed concerns about her command of technical legal details: In 2001, for example, a conservative colleague, Ralph Winter, included an unusual footnote in a case suggesting that an earlier opinion by Sotomayor might have inadvertently misstated the law in a way that misled litigants. The most controversial case in which Sotomayor participated is Ricci v. DeStefano, the explosive case involving affirmative action in the New Haven fire department, which is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court. A panel including Sotomayor ruled against the firefighters in a perfunctory unpublished opinion. This provoked Judge Cabranes, a fellow Clinton appointee, to object to the panel's opinion that contained "no reference whatsoever to the constitutional issues at the core of this case." (The extent of Sotomayor's involvement in the opinion itself is not publicly known.)

There's always all sorts of whisper campaigns for and against Supreme Court candidates but the left knows they are going to get a solid vote. What they really want however is someone who can take Scalia and Roberts on toe to toe. Well, good luck with that.

Anyone who has the intellectual heft to even think about being the left's Scalia likely has a long paper trail. Can Obama nominate someone like that and still hold on to Senators like Landreau, Lincoln, Nelson, Webb, Tester, etc?

Even with a filibuster proof majority life isn't all skittles and beer.


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posted by DrewM. at 12:07 PM

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