Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has been deservedly criticized for two of her public statements: one in which she labels herself a “wise Latina” and declares that her judgement is necessarily better than a “white male” judge because of her gender, ethnicity, and life experience; and another in which she says that “policy” is made in the courts. As shocking as the first sentiment is, at least it is honest. Likely, Judge Sotomayor really believes that her ability to judge cases is better than a man’s. Her entry in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary says that lawyers who have worked with and argued before believe Sotomayor has an “inflated opinion of herself.”
Most of the criticism of her second statement has focused on the notion that courts should not make policy, as the nominee believes. But it is what Sotomayor said immediately after that reveals her to be a perfect liberal activist judge. Worse, she displays a willingness to be dishonest about what she believes a justice’s role in the system should be for the sake of protecting her judicial future.
Sotomayor made the remarks at a Duke University Law School forum in response to a question about the difference between the federal district and appeals courts. Sotomayor said that the difference was that, “Court of Appeals is where policy is made.” Immediately realizing her gaffe, Sotomayor attempted to walk back her remarks. But in so doing, she did not retract her statement. Rather, she merely tried to cover up the truth she just exposed; even acknowledging the radical nature of her beliefs with an awareness that they could come back to haunt her.
“Court of Appeals is where policy is made. And, I know, and I know that this is on tape and I should never say that. Because we don’t ‘make law,’ I know. Okay, I know. I know. I’m not promoting it, and I’m not advocating it. I’m, you know.”
What we know is that Sotomayor realized immediately that her words could jeopardize her chances at a Supreme Court nomination sometime in the future, so she does her best to restore the veil of secrecy she just tore down. But her tone of voice and gestures make clear that Sotomayor does not believe a word of what she is saying. The audience’s laughter proves that the message was sent loud and clear. Every student at that forum walked out secure in the knowledge that Sotomayor believes courts should make policy, but that they should never talk about that publicly.
If Sotomayor really believes that her role as an unelected justice on the Supreme Court should be to decide policy questions, then that should be a topic of discussion in her confirmation hearings. But as her half-hearted cover-up shows, Sotomayor does not want to be as honest about her view of the Court’s role as she does about how gender and ethnicity influence judicial ability. Like all liberal activists, Sotomayor wants to hide her true intentions behind politically correct rhetoric. In short, she is willing to lie to gain power, after which she will do as she pleases.
Cross posted at Mark on the Right.