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July 15th, 2009
06:20 AM ET

Analysis: Sotomayor a cautious, careful liberal

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin calls Judge Sonia Sotomayor 'a cautious, careful liberal.'"]

By Jeffrey Toobin
CNN Senior Analyst

(CNN) - One of the enduring myths about Supreme Court justices is that they often turn out to "surprise" the presidents who appoint them. Sure-thing conservatives, it is said, turn out to be liberals, ­and vice versa. In fact, the evidence is almost entirely the opposite: that with justices, as in life, what you see is what you get.

The question, then, is this: What do you see when you look at Sonia Sotomayor, who begins her confirmation hearings as a strong favorite for confirmation?

She is, above all, a veteran judge ­who has 18 years on the federal bench: six as a trial judge (appointed by President George H.W. Bush) and the rest on the court of appeals (appointed by President Clinton). The question of competence is closed. Sotomayor can do the job. It's no surprise that she received a unanimous rating of well-qualified from the American Bar Association screening committee.

But what would she stand for as a Supreme Court justice? She is, it seems, a liberal,­ but a liberal in the cautious and careful mode of her likely future colleagues Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Her leanings are clearest in the case of affirmative action. As a political and constitutional matter, she believes government can take steps to assure a diverse work force or student body.

This view was on display in the most famous (or infamous) decision of her career.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Ed - Rochester, NY

    I have a question: Is it just me or does it seem ridiculous to have those firefighters testify at her confirmation hearings? I get that they were disappointed in her ruling (which appeared to follow the law as it then stood), but how are they qualified to say anything about her analysis of the law whether right or wrong? What a lame political stunt.

    July 16, 2009 at 9:33 am |
  2. Roger Ritthaler

    Evasive is probably a better term.

    How many interviews have you had where you could refuse to answer hypothetical questions and still have a chance to be hired?

    Here's a start:

    July 15, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  3. ann miller

    A look in the mirrow is required on the issue of preferential treatment towards gender and race. White males have been given preferential treatment for centuries as being the smartest with the better judgement for all of society while prefering their race and gender.

    July 15, 2009 at 8:28 am |
  4. Miguel

    As a Latino male i'll be the first to say that in the past, people of color and women were not given the same advantages as white men. That has changed. In case you didn't notice, we have an African American President and many minorities in positions of authority, government, law enforcement and other positions formerly held by white men. I managed to succeed as an MD without always using the crutch of the way "We" were treated in the past, and focused on changing the future.
    It seems that everyone's focus is on Sotomayer's ethnicity and not on her ability. There are matters of great importance other than just affirmative action. She clearly is NOT able to judge without prejudice and should not be appointed. As I stated earlier, I am Latino, but first and foremost, I am an American and I don't want Sotomayer as my Supreme Court Justice.

    July 15, 2009 at 8:10 am |
  5. Dronetek

    You are all taking quite a different stance than you did with Robert and Alito. This has nothing to do with bias though does it??

    July 15, 2009 at 7:44 am |