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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

TEA LEAF READING: DOES SOTOMAYOR NOMINATION HURT CHANCES FOR IMMIGRATION BILL? OR HELP?

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The pundits are already punditizing about something folks in my own office were debating yesterday - what the nomination of the first Hispanic to the US Supreme Court means for immigration reform this year. One camp believes that Obama has "thrown a bone" to the growing, increasingly powerful Hispanic community by nominating Sotomayor and it is intended to soften the blow when he decides to pass on pushing immigration reform this year.

On the other hand, appointing Sotomayor could also be viewed as further enhancing support Hispanics, particularly if Republicans foolishly seek to push back too hard against a well-qualified nominee. Already, some of the not so swift themselves members of the GOP have been saying Sotomayor is not intellectually sharp enough for the court. I guess the fact that she finished as salutorian of her class at Princeton and then went on to Yale Law School where she made it on to the Yale Law Journal is to be ignored. Perhaps Sotomayor is the one and comprehensive immigration reform is the two in a one-two punch to lock up Hispanic voters for the next twenty or so years.

Of course, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and it could very well be that President Obama saw Sotomayor as the best choice for the job. But that wouldn't be nearly as interesting.

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Comments

  1. AD's Avatar
    Just like many of us oppose the rationing of EB numbers, I oppose the rationing of the supreme court justices based on ethnicity. Every show on radio and TV was talking about the whole ethnic issue. If the president and the senate feel that she is an intellectual power house, like scalia (not in my opinion, but as per many shows) give her the job. If she happens to be a latina, fine its the icing on the cake. But If Obama is actually giving precedence to politics/ethnicity over intellect and daring GOP to fight the nomination, you know, what goes around comes around.
  2. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    Obama was a constitutional law professor, and he is obviously very qualified in the subject himself. I don't think he can overcome the temptation to pick the best judge based on his rather vast expertise in favor of a political hack. Just think about your own expertise - would you turn down a vendor who is a clear winner just because they don't not have the prettiest presentation? I would not.
  3. AD's Avatar
    LNLW,

    I am not leaning one way or the other about his decision. We dont know what was in his head. Knowing what is right/good is one thing. Doing/implementing it is another thing. What I am alluding to is what kind of politics were in play (if there were) is unknown. I hope that there is none. But if there were issues that took precedence over intellect, That is very bad. Obama is not only a Constitutional law professor but also a politician.
  4. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    "We dont know what was in his head."
    The best way to understand what's in someone else's head is to understand what's in your own head first. Now, if you were at some point of your career... I don't know, a brilliant mechnical engineer, also teaching at a leading university, and then you bacame a mayor of a town and had to decide which project for a bridge to take on - would you choose a clear engineering winner, or a project that has more political weight to it? Honestly - how much of your professional pride would you be willing to swallow for a little bit of political gain?

    I don't think it is hard to understand that Obama was in it for real, and I would trust his decision just because I have rarely seen bright people to compromise their professional integrity that easily. I have, however, seen a lot more cases when someone is being very difficult just because they are not willing to compromise their professional integrity even a tiny bit for no matter how much gain. So, yes, I do trust Obama on this one.
  5. AD's Avatar
    Whew!

    You are generalizing way too much about the president. Probably you trust him on this one. I am saying that I have deferred it to time. The reason why I think President is yet another politician is because he has moved/changed his position on various issues (for example, granting immunity to telephone companies, retroactively. granting them immunity is one thing and to do it retroactively is another thing, esp when you preach some thing else). I am not saying that it is necessarily wrong or bad but what I am saying is he can be influenced. Again, Your example of what I would do you would do hypothetically in our careers does not necessarily hold good in this situation. These are decisions that have tremendous influence from 100 directions on them and the decisions you cite as an example don't have that sort of pressure/influence.
  6. George Chell's Avatar
    "Just like many of us oppose the rationing of EB numbers, I oppose the rationing of the supreme court justices based on ethnicity."

    Unfortunately this is America. Most of the antis reason for opposing immigration is the browning of America..they wont tell it out aloud but I have proved my point over and over again beyond a reasonable doubt that racism is behind FAIR and CIS opposing immigration.
  7. Sid's Avatar
    Let's not get Obama's political & academic intellects mixed up. An academic can come up with the most optimal solution because he/she can ignore reality. A politician has to come up with solutions that have the right balance of intellect and populism (mostly populism). Otherwise, they'll get kicked out of power or will fail in getting legislation passed. That philosophy is reflected in all the major bills that have been signed by Obama. Most intellectuals have found major flaws in all the bills but are resigned to the fact that at least they're steps in the right direction.

    Let's also not forget that Obama wasn't the only person elected in Nov. There are senators and house representatives who've to answer to their constituents.
  8. AD's Avatar
    sid,

    The whole point about this nomination is whether to let politics and ethnicity dominate the intellect. IMO, Politics and ethnicity should come only after intellect not before or along in case of SC justice nomination. If we are talking nominating DHS secretary thats one thing, if we are talking SC justice, that's in a league of its own and ought to be free from politics as much as possible. I am not discounting sotormayor or her achievements but this whole thing about slicing and dicing the 9 positions ( B T W, these are life time ) based on ethnicity or preferring some Indian/Chineese American over White male is disturbing. If the Indian/Chinese American happens to be the best, get him. If not and if it happens to be that the white male is the best of the lot, get the white male regardless of who ever is second to him and how many white males are already in there.

    I totally agree with you on the getting re elected part.
  9. Dan's Avatar
    Let's not discount the importance of diversity in the Supreme Court. While intellect is important, the ability to contribute a different perspective in the Judiciary without compromising the letter and spirit of the law is as important.

    We know that where the law is black and white, the case need not go to the higher court. There are certain cases where the law does not specifically address the situation and interpretation of justices are needed. This is where diversity of experience matters.
  10. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    I don't think it's about intellect in IQ sense at all. Being wise is differnt from being smart, and the Supreme Court needs wise people more than smart ones. Otherwise, the the nominations would have been dominated by 20-somehting geniuses.
  11. A PT's Avatar
    Waiting to see if Obama comes out with the "knock out" punch with CIR this year
  12. gg's Avatar
    Who cares about this nomination really ? Ordinary people really don't as they are more worried about other realities of life... one extra robe on tax payers money ...
  13. gg's Avatar
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/5/27/735915/-Nomination-of-Judge-Sotomayor-is-no-substitute-for-immigration-reform

    (Related ...)
  14. Jack's Avatar
    'Already, some of the not so swift themselves members of the GOP have been saying Sotomayor is not intellectually sharp enough for the court.'

    They probably have no personal basis for thinking that but likely have been reading the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary and articles like this:

    'I've been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

    The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was "not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench," as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it.'

    http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=45d56e6f-f497-4b19-9c63-04e10199a085

    http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=6168aeb7-9869-43eb-b401-2204a0d84478

  15. Jack's Avatar
    'On the other hand, appointing Sotomayor could also be viewed as further enhancing support Hispanics'

    The Puerto Rican groups reportedly are giddy but others maybe were kind of 'hoping for a Longines' (reference to obnoxious watch ad campaign you can probably find on YouTube):


    '[S]ome would have preferred to see Obama nominate a Mexican-American considering that they make up 70 percent of the nation's 47 million Latinos.

    "The argument could be made for (a Mexican-American nominee)," said Raul Yzaguirre, former head of the National Council of La Raza, one of the nation's largest Hispanic civil-rights organization.

    ...

    Luz Sarmina, president and CEO of Valle del Sol, a non-profit community-based Latino organization in Phoenix, said that she was thrilled with the choice of a Hispanic but admits that she would have liked to have seen Obama nominate a Mexican-American.

    "I'm thrilled having a Latina, but I also think there are many Mexican-Americans well-qualified for that role. I don't want to pit one group against the other, but I think I would have been thrilled to see a Mexican-American."

    http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2009/05/27/20090527scotus-latino0527.html
  16. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    "Let me state that I am sure Sotomayor and I don't agree on very much. And I am sure some of her liberal rulings will drive me nuts. But President Obama won, is a liberal and gets to put liberals on the court. That's the way it works. Ideology aside, is she qualified?

    There can be no debate over her qualifications. Her lifetime achievements in the academic world, in the legal world and the judicial world are unchallengeable. If that was the only measure, she would be confirmed unanimously."

    This is from Rollins, former RNC chairman.
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/05/28/rollins.sotomayor/index.html
  17. George's Avatar
    "Already, some of the not so swift themselves members of the GOP have been saying Sotomayor is not intellectually sharp enough for the court."

    What do you expect? Not much intellectual ability among Jeff "the racist" Sessions and Jim "the Demented" DeMint or in the case of David "Dimwitted" Vitter (in this particular case other than getting involved in extra-curricular activities!)

  18. Dan's Avatar
    I read somewhere that Sotomayor is being called "bully" by lawyers who came to her court unprepared. I guess these laywers were not used to being scolded by a lady judge. She can't bully these lawyers if she, herself, came unprepared. She knows her stuff that's why she can afford to reprimand unprepared lawyers.
  19. Jack's Avatar
    'first Hispanic to the US Supreme Court'

    Benjamin Cardozo. I was thinking she might be the first self-identifying Hispanic but from what I've read she prefers 'Latina'.


    'I guess these laywers were not used to being scolded by a lady judge.'

    Certainly there's the possibility of sexism but do other lady judges get a similar number of comments? The knee-jerk whiners about TNR articles miss the point--it's not that she's dumb, incompetent, unqualified, etc. but that she is perceived by observers as maybe not the heavyweight they'd like to counter Scalia et al. As opposed to Wood: 'in the view of scholars and lawyers, as an unflinching and spirited intellectual counterweight to Judges Posner and Easterbrook.' Once you get past Sotomayor's personal biography and ethnicity angle, are people who've been salivating over the possibilities of a transformational Democratic appointment excited about this choice over what she might accomplish as opposed to who she is? It's sad for her that the story being reported is that Obama met her and fell in love with the personal story. She was going to be painted into that box anyway but it doesn't help.
  20. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    "Certainly there's the possibility of sexism but do other lady judges get a similar number of comments?"

    That's not the right question. The right question is whether male judges scold lawyers more even often then women judges. If it is so, then the comment is largely sexist - lawyers are complaining about being scolded by women, but scolding by men is OK.
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