Vail Valley Voices: What about Sotomayer? |

Vail Valley Voices: What about Sotomayer?

Sal Bommarito
Vail, CO, Colorado

It’s that time again when partisan politics completely overwhelms the Washington Beltway.

The selection of a Supreme Court justice is a big deal, a really big deal. Liberal and conservative lawmakers, bloggers and talking heads are already revving up for an epic battle. The issues of abortion rights and civil rights are potentially at stake.

Sonia Sotomayor is President Obama’s choice to replace Justice David Souter, who wants to retire.

Justice Sotomayor is a Hispanic woman who graduated from Princeton with honors and attended Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She was an assistant district attorney in New York, and afterward appointed a federal court judge by President George H.W. Bush, and a judge on a federal appeals court having been appointed by Bill Clinton. Both positions were approved by the Senate.

What a resume! So, what’s the problem? Why would conservatives try to derail Sotomayer’s nomination to the Supreme Court?

Judge Sotomayor is a liberal and an activist, that’s why. While at Yale, she demanded that more Hispanics be on the faculty. And she’s a member of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights organization. Neither one these facts imply any unethical behavior on her part, but they do paint a picture of a woman who may have a mission that’s outside the purview of a Supreme Court justice.

Some conservatives are already questioning Ms. Sotomayer’s intelligence, a strange contention given her academic credentials, and claiming she will legislate from the bench. The latter is especially anathema to members of Congress when their political perspectives are different than the judge being considered.

Vicious attacks directed at Supreme Court nominees aren’t a new phenomenon.

Years ago, Robert Bork, a staunch conservative, was flailed by liberal senators and forced to withdraw. And Clarence Thomas, although ultimately approved, was literally persecuted during his questioning by hostile senators.

And even more disturbing is the threat of a filibuster by the opposing party.

Filibusters are traditionally employed by senators attempting to prevent a vote on specific legislation. In recent years, the ploy has been used to delay or waylay the approval of cabinet nominees and federal court justices. A filibuster can only be defeated if 60 senators vote to end it. It’s unknown whether Republicans will resort to a filibuster relating to Judge Sotomayor, but it’s possible.

I believe Washington has become too competitive. Every political battle is a death match. It’s no wonder that legislation has slowed to a crawl and the public has such a low opinion of Congress.

The party not in power should object to anything it believes would be harmful to America, but in a civilized manner. And the party in power should be able to govern with a simple majority.

As far as Judge Sotomayor is concerned, a contentious debate is likely even though she is a good nominee and has already been approved by the Senate two times before.

Sal Bommarito is a New Yorker who has skied Vail for 20 years. He will periodically report on national issues that affect Vailites. A former investment banker, he recently published four novels.

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