Today's New York Times has an interesting article on Circuit Judge Sonya Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court. It answers a lot of questions I have heard from my friends on the Left since her nomination. Given that the President has a penchant for Establishment appointees like Treasury Secretary Geithner, and given that Judge Sotomayor was a prosecutor before she was appointed as Federal District Judge by President George HW (Daddy) Bush, these friends ask: is the President making the most of his opportunity to re-shape the debate in the Supreme Court?
The answer, happily, is a resounding "yes." According to the Times, in the 1980's Judge Sotomayor was on the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), a civil rights advocacy group in New York. The Times reports:
Ms. Sotomayor joined its board in 1980 when she was a young prosecutor in Manhattan and fresh out of Yale Law School. It was full of young, idealistic Latino lawyers like her who were eager to make a mark.
“She just believed in the mission,” Luis Alvarez, a former chairman of its board, said of Ms. Sotomayor. “This was a highly refined group of individuals who came from the premier academic institutions. It was almost like Camelot. It was a wonderful growth period.”
But Ms. Sotomayor stood out, frequently meeting with the legal staff to review the status of cases, several former members said. And so across her 12 years on the board — she left when she was appointed a federal judge in 1992 — she played an active role as the defense fund staked out aggressive stances on issues like police brutality, the death penalty and voting rights.
Among Judge Sotomayor's interests in those advocacy days was capital punishment. As the Times explains:
Ms. Sotomayor was part of a three-person committee of the board that recommended in 1981 that the fund oppose the reinstitution of the death penalty in New York State, according to board minutes from that time.
“Capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society,” the panel wrote. “It creates inhuman psychological burdens for the offender and his/her family.”
I'm sure this aggravates the hell out of the Right, and it probably scares some on the Left who would prefer a "stealth" nominee -- one who has a hidden philosophy that is only disclosed after confirmation (you can put current Chief Justice Roberts in the category). But this President doesn't shirk the fight. The old politics of trying to "put a fast one" by the electorate by appointing people with no public record is OVER.
Let the debate begin.
PS: For the record, I like Secretary Geithner too.