Tuesday, May 26, 2009

President Obama picks first Hispanic to U.S. Supreme Court

As reported by OneNewsNow.com, "Earlier today, Barack Obama made the first Supreme Court nomination by a Democratic president in 15 years. The president had stated publicly he wanted a justice who combined intellect and empathy. If approved, Sotomayor -- who currently serves on the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York -- would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court. Sotomayor was first appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush, then named an appeals judge by President Bill Clinton in 1997. Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice believes Obama ultimately picked Sotomayor for no other reason than he felt tremendous pressure to select a woman and a Hispanic. Levey says the pick surprised him, but was consistent with the president's desire to appoint an empathetic judge. "I actually thought he was going to be smarter than that," Levey responds. "[I thought] that he would pick somebody who was sort of a closet judicial activist, not someone who can easily be found on YouTube joking with contempt about the fact that she makes policy as a judge; and [not] someone who had controversial positions on affirmative action and gun rights -- [and not] somebody who even liberals say is not an intellectual heavyweight. "I thought he would find someone who sort of met his activist view of a judge, but was not such an easy target," he concludes. Levey contends Sotomayor's decision to rule in a way that prevented the New Haven firefighters affirmative action case from receiving further review from the Supreme Court "went beyond ideology" and crossed an ethical line. Levey predicts Obama will likely lose some red-state Democratic senators in the Sotomayor confirmation process, and may have to pay a very high political price to guide her nomination through. He believes that any effort Obama has made to try to carve out a moderate stance on same-sex "marriage," Second Amendment rights, affirmative action, and the war on terror will be unraveled by this pick.

According to Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, Sotomayor has a mixed history in terms of decisions handed down while she served on the Second Circuit. "She does not believe that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applies to individuals," Staver points out. "On the other hand, she wrote a decision that upheld the 'Mexico City policy,' which at the time banned federal funding of abortion overseas. She's never written specifically on the abortion issue." The Supreme Court is very much aware of some of her rulings, Staver adds. "She has had five decisions reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, three of which have been reversed," he notes. "She's carried 11 of the 44 possible votes during those cases -- meaning that she hasn't gotten a lot of sympathy from the United States Supreme Court regarding her particular decisions. She's in favor of affirmative action, but she's upheld the Religious Freedom Restoration Act." Sotomayor is considered an activist judge, but Staver argues that no one will make it to Obama's short list without that characteristic. The Supreme Court nominee has written a book called The International Judge, which suggests that international law and policies should be considered in some court decisions.

Leftward lean? If approved, says Clark Forsythe of Americans United for Life, Sotomayor will help tilt the court to the left. "She clearly is a judicial activist who believes that her personal feelings, [that] personal politics are important in deciding cases, [and] that courts should and do make policy," he offers, "And this nomination is about expanding judicial power versus self-government." The pro-life spokesman points out that the fact that Sotomayor has been a contributor to Planned Parenthood might be a clue to her attitude towards abortion. "Whenever judicial power is expanded beyond the text of the Constitution, the right to self government shrinks," says Forsythe. "And Judge Sotomayor is clearly one who believes that judicial power should be expanded and that courts should make policy -- and that's very disappointing." Forsythe adds that judges should be servants of the Constitution and servants of the people in applying the text, history, and structure of the Constitution as it is ratified by the people. Judges, he contends, should not become political actors who shape and update the Constitution and the laws.

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