Thursday, February 24, 2011

Becoming Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Her Judicial Processes from the Second Circuit to the Supreme Court

Nicole Nielson, a second-year student at Albany Law School, member of the Albany Law Review and an Associate Editor of the Center, examines the decision-making process and voting patterns of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, both while a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and in her current position on the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is a venerated institution charged with interpreting, applying, and upholding the Constitutional values that form the backbone of American freedom.  This incredible responsibility is filled through the selection and service of individuals, all of whom are human and subject to the fallibility of human nature.

Becoming a Supreme Court justice does not magically remove one's existing values and influences that inform and guide individual decision-making.  When Sonia Sotomayor was nominated, she was lauded as someone who would provide a post-partisan moderating and mitigating influence upon the increasingly politically divided Court.[1]  Analysis of Justice Sotomayor's judicial record evidences consistently liberal political ideology underlying her decision-making, rather than the projected moderation.  More so than any other identifying factor, this ideology seems to  characterize her decisions, and informs us about how she will reach decisions in future cases.

[1] E.J. Dionne, Sonia Sotomayor: Obama’s Moderate Nominee, Seattle Times (May 28, 2009), (last visited Dec. 10, 2010); see also Press Release, The White House Office of the Press Secretary, Judge Sonia Sotomayor (May 26, 2009),  (Justice Sotomayor was a George H.W. Bush appointee to the bench in 1992, was elevated to the Court of Appeals by William Jefferson Clinton and was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama).

Read the entire paper here.