Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sotomayor--Let's Put the Cards on the Table (The Hearings--Disappointing at Best)

[I've just returned from Arizona and from a break from this blog. After nearly 2 months of perfectly sunny skies, beautiful flora, fauna, and mountains, and great Scottsdale living, I'm back home in my other favorite place, Upstate New York. In fact, as soon as we drove into New York (into the westernmost part of the state on Interstate 90), Cath and I were again struck by just how gorgeous New York is. Lake Erie on the left, rolling hills and vineyards on the right, the landscape deep green but not smothering, Cherry Valley ahead, then mountains and cliffs on either side, the Mohawk River Valley... God's country.
And Saratoga opens in 2 weeks.]

For a court junkie, there are few shows better than the Senate confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee. They're the Sinatra concert of current events.

So C-Span and CNN have been on non-stop. And like all true devotees of these events (i.e., judicial watching geeks), I've spent virtually all my time watching, taking notes, discussing and arguing. [Indeed, within 1 1/2 hours of my arrival back home in the Albany area, I was waxing and waning on TV about the 1st day's opening remarks.]

As I'm writing this, the Senators are engaged in their second round of questioning Judge Sotomayor. The questioning is supposed to finish today. Possibly this evening at the current pace. To be blunt, I hope someone can finally get Sotomayor to respond with something beyond the banalities and superficialities she's been offering up so far. [Note: the questioning was NOT concluded and it will continue tomorrow.]

I know this is heresy for my fellow liberals and Democrats, but let's be frank. This is the weakest performance of a Supreme Court nominee in a long time. She has provided virtually no discussion of the judicial role (except the utter nonsense that judges don't make law or policy), the vital issues (except to say that they all depend upon the specific facts of the case and the precedents), or constitutional principles (except to cite a relevant Supreme Court or 2d Circuit decision).

Sotomayor will likely vote the way I would in most cases. Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts usually do not. But their performances before the Senate Judiciary Committee were light years more impressive than hers. They showed themselves to be extremely knowledgeable, to have a command of Supreme Court jurisprudence and the Constitution, and well thought views about the proper role of the Court in our tripartite democratic republic. And before them, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer did the same. Agree with any of them or not, they were extraordinary and they proved themselves highly qualified for the Supreme Court. Sotomayor has not done that. Not close.

Sotomayor may turn out to be a fine, even great Justice. But there has been very little evidence of that at the hearings. Come on, let's put the cards on the table. Her performance (other than avoiding a politically destructive bombshell) has been abysmal.

Beginning tomorrow, some more specific analysis of the substance of Sotomayor's remarks.