Every Justice Creates a New Court

How will Sonia Sotomayor fit into the Supreme Court’s mix of ideology, personality, principle and politics, and will she make a discernible difference in the outcomes of cases?

Comments: 16

  1. A thoughtful piece. An open mind for everyone is the least people could do in favor of anyone, supreme court judges included.

    We all change. In unimaginable ways.

  2. Interesting article. I am delighted to have another woman on the Court, and a Latina, at that! From what I have read about Sotomayor, she seems to be more moderate than liberal, good. We need 'fairness and balance' on the Court.

    As a Cuban-American, from humble beginnings, I am proud of Sonia Sotomayor, she will be an excellent role-model and example to Latinas everywhere! Brava!

  3. Another barrier broken. Bravo!

  4. Funny how liberals love open minds & change when its in their favor. Would love to see them embrace "open minds" on things like eliminating racial preferences. After all, although she thinks its "hard-edged", the Chief's logic in the school case was unassailable: "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Some of wish some liberals would "evolve" to embrace that notion. Since Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion in the Ricci case, maybe she'll bring an "open mind" to the case after she's confirmed & "evolve" to vote to strike down such legal discrimination.

    And don't mention liberals' "open mindedness" when it comes to confirmations. Ginsberg & Breyer were approved with near Republican unanimity, but Obama voted to filibuster both Roberts and Alito. But its Republicans who are introducing partisan negativity into the process. They should be more "open-minded."

  5. A lot of excitement around the world for this pick (what could be better? former Bronx proletarian, Latino, Woman, the american Dream come true through sheer applicationa and hard work). If she actually said that silly phrase about latina women and white men, she'll have to suffer for it at the hearings. Nomination a decisive issue? Far from it. This is, rather, a test for the President: standing up for his choices.

  6. Take a look at one of the Washington Time's goofy articles today - stating that the Supreme Court overturned 60% of her cases, but not even mentioning until the end of the article that it was 3 cases out of 5 they heard, out of her 380 reviewable cases. Isn't that really about 0.7%of her cases? WHAT is wrong with these people?

  7. What is an activist judge or judiciary? Note to the media who adopt without thinking or questioning the labels bandied about by the right and left wings: It would seem that the Roberts court is in fact "activist". Look how many precedents, many of which are long-standing, it has reversed in just 4 years. For example, the Roberts court overturned the Dr. Miles case which, for 96 years, had stood for the proposition that a manufacturer and a distributor could not legally set prices for a product. Just this week, the Roberts court overturned Michigan v. Jackson, a Fourth Amendment case that stood for the proposition that once an accused has retained a lawyer, the police should not attempt to question the accused without the lawyer being present.

  8. For many WASPS, Sotomayor would not get any credit even if she were to discover the cure for AIDS and Cancer...

  9. I'm very happy with the selection of Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. But the idea that she will somehow champion people who are poor and struggling is not for sure. After all, she is extremely successful and she started from "humble beginnings."

    What would be truly great on the Supreme Court is someone who has worked and worked and tried and tried and is still poor and struggling. Now that would be someone who understands the real difficulties of life.

  10. The article might have stressed more the personality mixture involved. Remember the old diagrams with two arrows demonstrating the influences between two people. Add a third, however,and six relationships appear. AS the number increases, so do the number of possible relationships AND partnerships. A new justice immediately cancels a minimum of 18 relationships and replaces them. Human elements enter: do I like this person; they are too pushy; they have bad breath; I can't believe they said that, etc. Aligning and re-aligning, it would be an interesting psychological study to discern the effects of law vs personality in court decisions.

  11. The logic behind a legal system centered around "precedents" has been bugging me for years.

    The underlying assumption of "precedent" is EVERY case can be represented/simplified with a set of attributes/labels, which enable the case to be compared with previous cases. In other words, ignore the context and details that make any case unique.

    However, the underlying reason why courts and juries exist is that each case is UNIQUE, thus it must be judged based on its context by humans.

    See the logical contrition there?

    It seems the current legal system works by attempting to walk a fine line between these two opposite concepts, and the line is arbitrarily drawn and varies case by case. For instance, if every abortion case is deemed as identical in the sense that it can be reduced/simplified/labeled with "abortion", any legal procedures other than sentencing, including debates in the supreme court or the supreme court itself, are unnecessary.

    Please remember no law can have ALL foreseeable attributes. This is governed by Gödel's incompleteness theorems. Thus the perfect coexistence of the two is impossible.

    (Guess that is why I choose to study natural sciences, in which the only judge is the Universe, which is absolute fair to everything.)

  12. As some with a background as an immigrant, Judge Sotomayor's narrative speaks to me. An absolutely proud moment for our society and for women.

    No doubts about it, she will make a difference and in meaningful ways. Her story speaks to the world! What an inspiration it is!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43s9sJnMna8

  13. What is shocking to me is why there isn't more serious discussion about expanding the Supreme Court from 9 justices to 15, and enacting term limits of say..20 years. This court is dominated by Anglos, Males, Ivy Leaguers, and now a 6th Roman Catholic. It's composition does NOT reflect the makeup of the greater society in terms of demographics OR life experience, though the addition of a justice like Sotomayor is bound to help. The Supereme Court needs MORE women, MORE minority representation, and MORE diversity of perspective. No one would have to be removed from the court, but additional justices could be added to address the gross imbalance that currently exists.

    Where is the groundswell of support for refomring this archaic institution that has come to serve as a millstone around the neck of social progress?

  14. Cis (11):

    Lawyers supply the factual context and the judge interprets the law based on that framing and the relevant legal precedent. Often statutes apply, but there's no way to write a law that will cover every factual situation in the present or in a possibly unimaginable future situations.

  15. Cis (11):

    Obama cited the very familiar (almost clichéd) observation of Holmes: "The law has not been logic, it has been experience."

    It's quite true. Despite the impression given by the popular press (including the Times at times) and even some law schools, legal cases are not pure logic or philosophy contests. Most of it is developing facts, finding the best law for the party, and arguing by analogy. It can be done with varying degrees of elegance and effectiveness and it can get very expensive and involve a huge amount of drudgery.

  16. Well, then, perhaps it's not too late to write a piece on how the Court was renewed by the arrival of Clarence Thomas.