Jeffrey Rosen has written a few times about Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, and her “compelling” life story. Compelling? Whatever….so is Justice Thomas’ story. That didn’t help him a whole lot during confirmation tho.
What’s even more interesting is the view of her from those who have worked with her:
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.
The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was “not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,” as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. “She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren’t penetrating and don’t get to the heart of the issue.”~~~
Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees. It’s customary, for example, for Second Circuit judges to circulate their draft opinions to invite a robust exchange of views. Sotomayor, several former clerks complained, rankled her colleagues by sending long memos that didn’t distinguish between substantive and trivial points, with petty editing suggestions–fixing typos and the like–rather than focusing on the core analytical issues.
Some former clerks and prosecutors expressed concerns about her command of technical legal details.
The ones he did find who had a favorable opinion of her almost all brought up the fact that she doesn’t wilt like a flower under heavy pressure.
Yeah….much better to have a Supreme Court justice who is domineering rather than intelligent.
As you can imagine the lefties went a little nuts over his article and demanded to know who these sources were so a few days later he put out another post:
Readers have asked for more information about my sources. A few weeks ago, I received phone calls from eminent liberal scholars I know and trust. These scholars closely follow Sotomayor’s work and expressed questions about her temperament. They did not have axes to grind or personal agendas; they are Democrats who want President Obama to appoint the most effective liberal Supreme Court justices possible and were concerned Sotomayor might not meet that high standard. They put me in touch with others in the same situation–mostly former Second Circuit clerks and prosecutors who have argued before her–and nearly all of them expressed the same view, with exceptions I noted in the piece.~~~
I was satisfied that my sources’s concerns were widely shared when I read Sotomayor’s entry in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which includes the rating of judges based on the collective opinions of the lawyers who work with them. Usually lawyers provide fairly positive comments. That’s what makes the discussion of Sotomayor’s temperament so striking. Here it is:
Sotomayor can be tough on lawyers, according to those interviewed. “She is a terror on the bench.” “She is very outspoken.” “She can be difficult.” “She is temperamental and excitable. She seems angry.” “She is overly aggressive–not very judicial. She does not have a very good temperament.” “She abuses lawyers.” “She really lacks judicial temperament. She behaves in an out of control manner. She makes inappropriate outbursts.” “She is nasty to lawyers. She doesn’t understand their role in the system–as adversaries who have to argue one side or the other. She will attack lawyers for making an argument she does not like.”
Another quote from that almanac is telling:
Lawyers interviewed said Sotomayor writes good opinions. “Her opinions are O.K, by and large.” “She writes very clear and careful prose in her opinions.” “Her writing is good.” “Her opinions are generally well-reasoned and well-argued.” “She writes well.” “She is a very good writer.” “Her writing is not distinguished, but is perfectly competent.”
“Competent”. Not steller, but just ok.