Tag Archive: supreme court

I was completely obsessed with the Sotomayor hearings last summer.  I couldn’t watch them live, but the Interwebs were very amiable.  Late in the evening, I’d start downloading the C-Span files, watching them carefully hour after hour. I caught up on my days off.  I watched (mostly online) every moment except for the last half of the 4th day.  And I took in the commentary.  And the news snippets.  And the online discussions at forums I lurk and talk at.


Now, a year later, Elena Kagan… not so much.

Part of it’s that I’m quite busy.  Part of it is that there haven’t been so many media moments leading up to the hearings. Still…

There’s a piece of the original puzzle – why was I so obsessed with the Sotomayor hearings? – that is directly related to why this time around, I’m not mesmerized.

Last time, it was still early not just in the Obama administration, but in the emerging Republican position as a minority party.  The Sotomayor hearings obsessed me because the conservative members were, via the questions posed in those hearings, laying out their point of view.  So were Democrats, but it seemed to me that the Dems were displaying the same philosophies and approaches as usual, while the Republican members were digging in.  Taking hardline versions of conservative views.  Posing questions to, in actuality, make statements in favor of their own viewpoints.

Like Lindsay Graham, on my tv right now, a re-airing of the segment where Kagan makes a much needed joke about being where most Jews would be on Christmas Day, in a Chinese Restaurant.  Graham playing this weird game: Not really asking questions, not really (at times) even letting Kagan answer him, interrupting her again and again to pontificate, phrasing his questions as “do you agree with…” leading to a veeeerrrrry long statement, which any normal person could both agree with and disagree with, given it’s various parts and nuances and phrasings.

“Do you agree…” implies a yes or no answer.  Smart woman: she refuses, most of the time, to get sucked into giving yes and no answers.

And after laying out a long winded lecture/question, after backing Kagan into a corner, acting like he’s going to attack whatever answer she gives, Graham wraps it up with, “That’s right, that’s why we agree, blah blah blah.”


But I digress.  A bit.

My point, my reason for writing this, is to note that this time around, I already know all the talking points the GOP are going to use, all the ways in which they ignore fact and history, all the weird versions of their world view, where success for Americans is bad for the country, where growth is a liberal plot, where protection of our lands, our children, our neighborhoods, our representative democracy, is some massive socialist scheme engineered by the left.

I’ve already heard it, already seen the way the Democratically controlled Congress lets them blather on and then gets the work done (in the case of Supreme Court Justice hearings) or not (in the case of jobs, economy, environment, energy and nearly everything useful about the government)


So far so good on Kagan.  Same ol’ same ol’ when it comes to the GOP.

I’ll probably look for highlights around the web, but my sense is, barring secret associations with Really Scary People And/Or Ideas, Elena Kagan will be confirmed as our newest Supreme Court Justice.  Nothing to see, move along, move along…


6 August 2009

The Senate has confirmed Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court Justice today, in a vote of 68 to 31.

I caught a bit of the Senate floor broadcast on C-SPAN the other day, including both supportive and negative statements from the Senators.  The Senators supporting Sotomayor’s confirmation praised her history of even handed decision-making, her reliance on precedent and standing law, her attention to upholding the Constitution, and on avoiding activist decisions.  Those Senators who spoke against her confirmation mostly cited their doubt that she’d be able to put aside her “wise Latina” statement, or any other personal view she has expressed, in favor of following the strict dictates of the law and her responsibilities as a Justice.

Note that those Senators, every last one of ‘em a Republican, who didn’t support Sotomayor didn’t have any proof whatsoever that her personal viewpoints as a Latina or a woman (or any other individual aspect) have affected her decisions on the bench.  These senators, both in their speeches yesterday and in the statements they made during the confirmation hearings, kept saying they saw a schism between those supposedly alarming statements and her admittedly centrist record as a Judge.  Maybe there is a schism, but with no evidence that her wise Latina remark (or anything else) has affected her decisions, where is the problem?

In other words, isn’t that exactly how a responsible Justice should approach their job?  Aren’t they supposed to suspend their own view of the world in favor of the law, the history of the law, and the Constitution?  When a Justice makes a statement based on their personal viewpoint, shouldn’t they leave that narrow perspective at the door when they go to work and decide the cases in front of them?

Certainly every Justice we’ve ever had sitting on the Supreme Court has held a wide variety of personal viewpoints, on issues of the day like race or religion, class or gender, and on broader issues like what the Constitution means, or what the role of government should be in the United States.  And certainly, no human can completely divorce themselves from their world view. 

Still, some separation is not just desirable, but appropriate.  What I want in a Justice or Judge is someone who, regardless of their personal views, approaches their cases with every intent of valuing the law above any personal viewpoint they hold.  I want them to look at what has gone down before, and make decisions rooted in precedent and existing law.  I want them to leave law-making to our elected representatives, as much as they can.  Their job is to decide based on the law created in Congress or state Legislatures, not to rule in favor of their own ideas about what is right and wrong.

In Sonia Sotomayor, I believe we have Justice who will approach the cases before her in a considered manner, referencing what has been decided in the past, looking strictly at what is before her rather than making sweeping politicized decisions, trying to further the purpose of the Constitution.  I don’t think she will always decide things as I would, as a citizen looking at issues through the lens of my own experience, and I don’t expect to always be happy with her decisions.  What I do think I can rely on is that she will approach each case carefully and as objectively as humanly possible.

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