Pres. Obama and the Supremes

Pres. Obama announced his nomination to replace Justice Souter on the SCOTUS:

Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

From what I am hearing and reading, she seems pretty far to the left.  She is certainly not an originalist.   There are indications that she sees the role of judge at these higher levels as activist.  Also, she seems to view the work of judges from the view of identity politics.

Will/does she interpret law or attempt to legislate from the bench?

What is the role of a judge/justice?

As things stand now, there is almost no chance that she will not be confirmed.

Her appointment will not really change the composition of the court, as I understand Sotomayor’s record.

The confirmation process must therefore shape what will happen in the next round of nomination/controversy/confirmation.

This may be a good opportunity for the opposition to define themselves and learn how better to communicate how they differ from the dominant left.

Justice Souter is leaving the Court at 69 years of age, perhaps young for a Supreme Justice to retire.  Judge Sotomayor is only 55 years of age.

NB: Pres. Obama, when he was a Senator, voted against Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. DavidJ says:

    This is my shocked face. =|

  2. JohnMa says:

    She is a Roman Catholic, which will mean 2/3 of the Court will be Roman Catholic when she is confirmed. 2 of those, Sotomayor and Kennedy, vote to uphold Roe. Chances they get denied communion in DC? 0.

  3. You can catch thirty glib minutes of the nominee’s perspective on judicial restraint here:

  4. “minutes” = seconds

  5. magdalene says:

    Creative Minority Report has some things to say on this nominiation:

  6. Andy K. says:

    Hello post-racial America

  7. Jim of Bowie says:

    Next to the life issues this is why the American people made a huge mistake last November. She is our worst nightmare. She has said that the judges role is to make policy. She is about the furthermost judge from an originalist.

  8. magdalene says:

    Some more from the Pewsitter news site:

    Sonia Sotomayor Already Being Blasted

    Let the labeling begin. One of the leading and most influential conservative judicial groups is calling President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Sonia Sotomayor, a “liberal judicial activist”. Read below from Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network:

    “Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one’s sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.

    “She reads racial preferences and quotas into the Constitution, even to the point of dishonoring those who preserve our public safety. On September 11, America saw firsthand the vital role of America’s firefighters in protecting our citizens. They put their lives on the line for her and the other citizens of New York and the nation. But Judge Sotomayor would sacrifice their claims to fair treatment in employment promotions to racial preferences and quotas. The Supreme Court is now reviewing that decision.

    “She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court.”

  9. LCB says:

    How is a person who has been overturned 80% of the time, by the Supreme Court, qualified for the Supreme Court?

    It’s a good thing that the Supreme Court doesn’t really matter… just like we were told during the election. Right? Right?

  10. Mark says:

    “How is a person who has been overturned 80% of the time, by the Supreme Court, qualified for the Supreme Court?”

    lol, good question. Because she’s a woman, Hispanic, and maybe even because she’s Catholic. Obama has made ending the Church’s influence and liberating Catholics from the need to obey the Church a big part of his agenda.

    Also, it may be just a message from Obama saying the Court has been wrong in reversing her and needs to get with the times. She’s allowed to vote how she wants on the Court, so even I’ll admit prior reversals really prove nothing except that her judicial philosophy disagrees with the current court’s, but US government doesnt work like the Church, and the goal of judges is not necessarily just to make the opinion that the higher-ups will accept. And once the composition of higher-ups changes, so can the policy.

    Anyway, I think judges should be “activist” because they are by nature, they can’t help it; anyone interpreting a text as implying a different implementation than the one being given…is by that fact activist. Speaking of “originalism” is not a good goal, as what the original founders “intended” is meaningless seeing as they were multiple and anyway are now dead. What we should hope for is someone who is going to interpret the Constitution in a Catholic way, or at least as much as possible. Is it a “stretch” to think that’s what the founder’s “meant”?? Sure, but so is all the stuff the liberals have read into it. Because they understand that texts are totally fluid that way. We should take a lesson from their book.

  11. jarhead462 says:

    Say it with me: “The stench from the bench is making me clench!”

    Semper Fi!

  12. Andy K. says:

    LCB –
    Can you provide a citation for the 80% comment?

    That would be insanely useful when i talk to people about her.

  13. TNCath says:

    While she may not change her positions, perhaps she’ll just change the wording on her decisions?

  14. Rancher says:

    Some sources have described her as a “non practicing” catholic who attended Catholic schools as a youth. It doesn’t matter whether she is practicing or not. Obama has added one more weapon to his arsenal of neutralizing if not destroying the potential of the U S Catholic Church to oppose his agenda in any effective way. The average citizen, and average non-orthodox catholic, is likely to view her as a catholic whose beliefs prove that social justice issues trump life issues or are at least equal to them.

    Obama is a shrewd and devious individual who recognizes the need to negate any ability of the Catholic Church to challenge him on any issue. He is always right about everything of course so I’m not sure why he is concerned. Be that as it may, by adding yet another “prominent catholic” to his stable of yes men (and women) he buffers himself even further against catholic criticism. After all, it’s all about him.

  15. kreepty says:

    President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor
    If confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, Judge Sotomayor, 54, would replace Justice David H. Souter to become the second woman on the court and only the third female justice in the history of the Supreme Court. She also would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court.
    See details of her biography:Judge Sonia Sotomayor-news-online

  16. ED says:

    I wish we had her mother’s address so we could flood her with letters trying to convince her daughter to vote pro-life.

  17. Russ says:

    Rancher is right – yet another weapon in the president’s arsenal to neutralize any effort on the part of the Catholic church to oppose his expansion of abortion in America.

    “What – me anti-Catholic? Why, I appointed Kathleen Sibelius to my cabinet. And didn’t you read those articles by Doug Kmiec? And how loudly I was cheered at Notre Dame and those glowing words of of admiration from Fr. Jenkins? And now I’m appointing another Catholic to the Supreme Court. It’s those extremists that have a Catholic problem, not me.”

  18. Charivari Rob says:

    What is the basis for saying that she’s Catholic?

    I’ve read a few press releases and articles. So far, none of them has anything about her saying she’s Roman Catholic. Or claiming any religious affiliation, for that matter.

    The only thing that has been said is that she’s a product of Catholic schools.

  19. Scotty says:

    “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”… Sotomayor; Discuss.

  20. Scotty says:

    “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn\’t lived that life.”… Sotomayor; Discuss.

  21. Andrew, medievalist says:

    A current topic that might come before the Supreme Court (though, as a foreigner, I don’t know if decisions of state supreme courts can be appealed to the Supreme Court):

    California Supreme Court upholds ban on gay “marriage” (AKA Proposition 8).

  22. The Astronomer says:

    “A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life”…

    Has anyone pointed out to this woman or the man that nominated her, Barak the Magnificent, that the classic image of Justice is of a BLINDFOLDED woman holding the scales?!?!?! By the way, in other Barak the Magnificent news, he has announced that he is cutting back on shipments of Twinkies to North Korea for their successful test of a Hiroshima-yield nuclear bomb.

  23. Michael R. says:

    [b] “A current topic that might come before the Supreme Court (though, as a foreigner, I don’t know if decisions of state supreme courts can be appealed to the Supreme Court):

    California Supreme Court upholds ban on gay “marriage” (AKA Proposition 8).

    Comment by Andrew, medievalist — 26 May 2009 @ 12:19 pm ” [/b]

    A decision of a state supreme court can be appealed to the federal supreme court only if there is a federal question involved. The “gay marriage” issue is a matter of interpreting the constitution of the State of California, not the U. S. constitution, so the California supreme court will have the final word.

  24. JohnMa says:


    Not true. This issue is going before SCOTUS. The petitioners in the case argue a 14th Amendment violation with Prop 8. They have said they will file for a writ of cert.

    Scalia came to my Con Law class last month and said that he is certain that cert won’t be granted in the prop 8 case, but that he knows he will have to vote to deny it.

  25. John 6:54 says:

    I understand she did stand up for the right of Pro-Life advocates 1st admendment rights to free speech and with Catholic Schooling maybe there is a chance she would be swayed on the issue. We should pray for a conversion of heart.

    But needless to say Obama only seems to hang with Pro-Choice Catholics (Biden, Daschel, Sibelius, Pelosi, Notre Dame Faculty?)

  26. Brendan says:

    She’s “Catholic.” I’m really starting to think that Obama has some deeply-rooted hate for the Catholic Church. It seems around half his nominations for anything are dissenting Catholics.

  27. Rancher says:

    Deep seated hate for the Catholic Church may be a possibility since BO has a track record of hating and attempting to destroy anything and anybody that he perceives stands in his way. The RCC is the only entity with the potential to mount any serious opposition to this pro death president.

  28. taad says:

    He continues to use catholic dissent to divide us further and weaken the
    authority of the Catholic Church. Look at his record on appointments and
    the decisions he’s made. The Catholic Church is his target to destroy by
    aiding those who have fallen away.

  29. LCB says:


    Start here

    She has been brought before the supreme court 5 times, and over turned 4 of them. 80%. Often in dramatic fashion, including 8-0.

  30. Charivari Rob says:

    Ken, JohnMa –

    Thank you.

    The Waldman article you linked asserts that she’s Catholic, because the White House told him so (without citing his source). He links to Gibson on part of the subject. The page with Gibson’s article actually links back to Waldman’s, so that’s a bit circular.

    It’s a start, but I’d be more interested in what she has to say on the subject than the White House. My searches so far have only turned up barely literate speculation and/or mediocre journalism.

  31. Ted says:

    An “affirmative actoin” selection fomr the “affirmative action” POTUS.

    Their races seem to be their only qualifications.

  32. Gil Ferguson says:

    Dear Rev. Father:

    With prayful respect, I ask one simple question:

    Is you blog about interpreting prayer of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, or a mouth-piece for some right wing political agenda?

    [Since there is nothing either prayerful or respectful about your question, you may ponder that on your own in silence.]

    May Sweet Jesus help us,
    Gil Ferguson

  33. Kevin Salmon says:

    [Edited out by Fr. Z. I will not allow this entry to be diverted into a rabbit hole about why I posted it.]

  34. Girgadis says:

    In 2002, she ruled against an abortion-rights group that challenged the
    Mexico City policy on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. That
    was her only decision I could find concerning abortion. It is concerning that
    a good number of her decisions were overruled by the USSC, and that she thinks
    that gender and race can and should affect a jurist’s ruling.

  35. Andy K. says:

    LCB –
    Thanks so much.

    This little tid-bit will be overworked by me like a dumbbell by Ahhhhnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday.

  36. The Astronomer says:

    [Edited out by Fr. Z. I will not allow this entry to be diverted into a rabbit hole about why I posted it.]

  37. jh says:

    \”She is a Roman Catholic, which will mean 2/3 of the Court will be Roman Catholic when she is confirmed. 2 of those, Sotomayor and Kennedy, vote to uphold Roe. Chances they get denied communion in DC? 0.\”

    John I am not sure there is a case for denying Communion in that case.

    As even Archbishop Chaput has pointed out there is a difference between being a judge and a legislator

    Let me say it could be far worse. I was holding my breath on this one. The President could have picked someone far more troublesome from a Conservative standpoint

    I am not worrying about her comments about legislating policy. I think in context what she she said was correct.

  38. Colleen says:

    [Edited out by Fr. Z. I will not allow this entry to be diverted into a rabbit hole about why I posted it.]

  39. Aelric says:

    I disagree wholeheartedly with the “pro-choice” position, but all of us must recognize that millions hold this view in subjective good faith, and that we have no right to decide that pro-choicers are necessarily evil in their hearts.

    If one cannot necessarily perceive evil in another’s heart, on what basis must one recognize the subjective good faith of that same heart? I find your statement incoherent, Mr. Salmon.

    The fact is that Mr. Obama has appointed self-proclaimed Catholics to high office who seemingly without exception hold a position that is objectively contrary to the Natural Law . Whatever motive might be ascribed to the same, objectively these appointments at best fail to serve the common good and at worst constitute a grave misplacement of justice and serve to perpetuate and expand a vicious moral evil in our society.

  40. The Astronomer says:

    Mea Maxima Culpa!

  41. Helen Donnelly says:

    [Edited out by Fr. Z. I will not allow this entry to be diverted into a rabbit hole about why I posted it.]

  42. jarhead462 says:

    [Edited out by Fr. Z. I will not allow this entry to be diverted into a rabbit hole about why I posted it. I appreciate that some people want to defend me, but this is a case of DNFTT (“Do NOT Feed The Troll”. I will start locking out people who continue to discuss it.]

  43. We’ve had stealth liberal justices for years and years; a stealth conservative right about now sure would be nice. Not that this is it.

    The Republicans ought to do the same thing to Obama’s nominees that Democrats have been doing to Republican nominees for years. Not that they will. But they should!

  44. I keep saying it, in hopes it will soothe jangled nerves:

    This only affects the actual outcomes of Supreme Court decisions in a worse way if she manages to win over Justice Kennedy–i.e., if she is somehow more persuasive to him than Souter plus the other four liberals have been.

    Of course it’s possible, but other than crafting something to prop up ones reflexive fears, I fail to see any good reason to say she will be persuasive in a way none of her new, liberal colleagues have been.

    Question; if she’s been overturned by the Supreme Court several times, that seems to answer the question in the negative, does it not?

    So the major impact of her appointment is she’ll have a platform for views that are extreme. And she’ll be outvoted. And right-thinking people will be even more motivated to get involved and counteract her views.

    That sounds good, on balance.

    Meanwhile, all the energy poured into this, in Congress, is not poured into something that might actually make a real difference…

  45. Theresa says:

    I see she was on the board for an outfit called “Childbirth Connection”. Anyone know anything about that organization? From their website, it does not appear to have any obvious connection to Planned Parenthood and does not talk about “reproductive rights”.
    Hopeful, hopeful . . .

  46. FOLKS: I mean this very seriously:

    Do not be diverted away from the serious topic of the entry by the tactic of personal attacks.

    A common tactic is to say “You are just trying to create division!”.

    The problem is that is exactly what that sort of comment is trying to accomplish so as to divert people from the real issues.

  47. Rancher says:

    The real issue will not be related to cases decided by the court. This is one liberal jurist replacing another liberal jurist, so “votes” in the SCOTUS will likely be little different. The real negative impact will be, as dicussed previously, further neutralizing the Church.

  48. Antiquarian says:

    Childbirth Connection looks encouraging– the website includes pictures of the developing child in different stages of pregnancy, and refers to both embryo and fetus as a “baby.”

    Amazing, I suppose that that would be a cause for hope, but it is a somewhat good sign that she was involved with them.

  49. jarhead462 says:

    I thought of that too- I think we have to hope that Scalia, Thomas, et al can hold on until we get a President or Congress that give a darn about the Constitution.
    Semper Fi!

  50. EDG says:

    Rancher, I think you’re right; I knew he was going to appoint a Catholic (at least in name) and I too see it as an attempt to confuse people and neutralize the Church.

    I’ve been watching the series The Tudors (which resembles the Sopranos but with better accents) and the portrait of Henry VIII as somebody who simply wanted his way and was completely ruthless in getting it reminds me ominously of Obama.

    In that case, too, the Church was the main obstacle, and he dealt with it by making a swift and almost unthinkable attack on it – although he certainly had a lot of support from Protestants and crypto-Protestants within the Church. I don’t think the Protestants are going to attack us, btw, I simply meant that Henry VIII exploited a pre-existing situation of weakened orthodoxy.

    I’m not sure exactly why (well, aside from the fact that Sotomayor seems to regard the Constitution as a mere suggestion), but this appointment gives me a very uneasy feeling.

  51. Luis says:

    Here is a quote from Her Honor, “I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that – it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others….” What if the “women and people of color” were replaced with “Catholic”. Mind you, there is a difference in that being Catholic requires reasoning based on natural law and revealed truth. But my point is, can the left’s rhetoric be used against itself in order to promote the participation of Catholics, informed by the Churches teaching, in political life?

  52. Luis says:

    Here is another quote.
    “I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society….”
    Replace “differences as women or men of color” with “Catholic identity”
    If “color identity” is part of the fabric of law and society why not “Catholic identity?”

  53. Charivari Rob says:

    Update to the Waldman article:

    “UPDATE 2:10 pm.: Another White House official elaborated slightly, “Judge Sotomayor was raised as a Catholic and attends church for family celebrations and other important events.””

  54. Kevin says:

    The Supreme Court does not have a mandate to uphold the
    Constitution even in originalist terms. It merely claimed
    the right to do so. I wonder why a Republican executive
    has not asserted its duty to enforce the law in the face
    of an unconstitutional SCOTUS ruling, at least where
    lives are at stake and could be saved.

    (I’m thinking of the Terri Schiavo case here, which I know
    did not involve SCOTUS, but the principle is the same.
    Liberals are currently making a specious claim about US
    prosecutions of Japanese for “waterboarding” in WWII, but
    who is drawing the comparison between what happened at
    Pinellas Park with what happened most notoriously to the
    Japanese POWS?)

  55. Patrick Thompson says:

    I have a mixed reaction to Sotomayer. It occurs to me that (1) Sotomayer seems to be driven by the anti-big business and wing of the Democratic party rather than an expressly anti-Life or anti-Catholic wing, and (2) even if she is meant to split the Catholic public, a high profile denial of communion or other disciplinary action might well have more of an effect on the Hispanic Catholic community in the US than it would on the US Catholic Community as a whole. Since the Democrats require Hispanic Catholic votes for their future, the effect might be to make them tread more carefully concerning Life issues in the future. (Obama is not the only one who can split a group). I still don’t like the idea that she dosn’t follow the Consititution for any reason though.

  56. Francesco B. says:

    The only reason why this appointment and the other appointments of \”Catholic\” dissenters is undermining and weakening the authority of the Church is because the Church\’s pastors in this country allow it to happen! I hate, hate, hate to say it, but it is true! It is encouraging that more and more bishops are speaking out against the great evils that exist in our society than ever before, but we need action. St. Ambrose didn\’t just dialogue or speak out against the emperor, and our bishops can\’t just speak out against our president (although speaking out is important!) They need to publicly declare that such dissenters are not in communion with the Catholic Church and cannot receive Holy Communion until they repent (publicly). They need to publicly challenge Obama on his appointment of pro-abortion Catholics and rebuke him for it! And any Catholic institution which would even dare to consider to honor or accommodate the most pro-abortion president ever should immediately be stripped of its Catholic status. Call me a raving hard-liner if you will, but as Fr. Z has been saying our Catholic identity is at stake here! Where are the successors of the apostles???

  57. Biff says:

    I’m sure there are many in the episcopacy celebrating today.

  58. Mark says:

    We dont know her opinion on abortion yet. We are assuming because Obama appointed her. But maybe, irony of ironies, she’ll pull a “Souter” on him! We can only hope.

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