Conservatives see silver lining in Sotomayor vote
Liberals cheered the first Hispanic justice, but conservatives say Sotomayor ultimately backed away from a liberal view of the Constitution.
Rick Kopstein/ New York Law Journal/ AP
Liberal advocacy groups celebrated what they hope is the beginning of an historic change at the nation’s highest court. Conservative groups, on the other hand, began preparing the way for a future battle over President Obama’s next high court nominee.
Liberals generally viewed the 68 to 31 Senate floor vote as an important milestone for Hispanics and women, while conservatives expressed concern that once Ms. Sotomayor takes her lifetime seat on the high court, her real views will become clear.
“This is a proud moment for the nation,” said Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “Sonia Sotomayor will be a superb Supreme Court justice and an inspirational figure for generations to come.”
Calling the confirmation “an historic, groundbreaking event that marks the start of a new day for justice in America,” Nan Aron, president of the liberal group Alliance for Justice, said Sotomayor’s influence on the court would be similar to that of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice.
“Her confirmation is just the beginning of the significant change that President Obama can bring to our judicial system,” she said.
In contrast, Americans United for Life (AUL) praised the 31 senators who voted against Sotomayor. “It is a stunning vote of ‘no confidence’ in a nominee whose background of abortion advocacy and record of judicial interventionism raises serious questions about her fitness for the high court,” said AUL President Charmaine Yoest.
Donny Ferguson of the Libertarian Party called the confirmation “a significant defeat for individual, property, and gun rights.”
“Libertarians hope President Obama will work harder in the future to appoint justices who uphold our constitutionally-protected rights, not someone else’s narrow political agenda,” Mr. Ferguson said.
However, the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network said the Sotomayor confirmation offered many “silver linings.”
“Although Judge Sotomayor was confirmed, it was not a resounding victory for the liberal view of the court: in fact, just the opposite,” said Gary Marx and Wendy Long in a written statement. “Because she failed to uphold the liberal view of the Constitution and judging [during her Senate hearings], she has made it more difficult for future Obama nominees who would attempt to be more intellectually consistent and honest.”
Judge Sotomayor had made a number of controversial statements in writings and speeches about a judge’s role in bringing change. During close questioning in the Senate, she backed away from those statements and rejected President Obama’s goal of seeking judges with “empathy.” Instead, Sotomayor said her judicial philosophy was fidelity to the law.
Mr. Marx and Ms. Long said the Sotomayor confirmation is a failure, not a victory, for Obama. They said the White House failed to put a “powerful and unabashed liberal lion, in the mold of Justice William Brennan,” on the court.
“This has unnerved the liberal left and put President Obama in a box,” they said. “Judicial restraint has won, and judicial activism has lost.”
But civil rights advocates welcomed her nomination. Sotomayor’s confirmation is important for continued progress on civil rights, said Jon Greenbaum, legal director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It is critical that we have Supreme Court Justices like Judge Sotomayor, who know from personal experience what hangs in the balance in the struggle to protect constitutional rights and combat discrimination,” he said.
Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said his environmental group was pleased by Sotomayor’s confirmation. “Judge Sotomayor’s record evinces no clear bias in favor or against environmental issues,” Mr. Van Noppen said, “but instead reflects meticulous preparation, a balanced and thoughtful review, and a deep understanding of the law.”
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