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“Maria” Sotomayor and the Looming Pretty-Much-The-Same Court

By Matthew Yglesias on May 26, 2009 at 9:08 pm

"“Maria” Sotomayor and the Looming Pretty-Much-The-Same Court"

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Judge Sonia Sotomayor with Barack Obama and Joe Biden

I’ve been wondering all day “what will Mike Huckabee say about Judge Sotomayor?” And now I know:

“The appointment of Maria Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama’s campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bi-partisan way were mere rhetoric. Sotomayor comes from the far left and will likely leave us with something akin to the ‘Extreme Court’ that could mark a major shift. The notion that appellate court decisions are to be interpreted by the ‘feelings’ of the judge is a direct affront of the basic premise of our judicial system that is supposed to apply the law without personal emotion. If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.”

Ah, yes, Maria. Say it loud and there’s music playing, say it soft and it’s almost like praying. But name mix-ups aside, what on earth is Huckabee talking about here? Sotomayor will, when confirmed, be replacing David Souter on the Court. Most likely, she’ll vote similarly to Souter and things will be basically the same. But if for some reason an issue does emerge on which she has some kind of “extreme” view, then she’ll lose 8-1. Supreme Court confirmation battles are fun political theater and an important fundraising opportunity for a lot of groups.

But the fact of the matter is that a center-left justice being replaced by a veteran federal judge selected by a Democratic president is very unlikely to lead to major change in the legal landscape. And if there is to be any change, it would have to come from Sotomayor being more conservative than Souter on some issue or other.

Meanwhile, this argument about “feelings” is really beneath contempt. Judicial decisions aren’t made by robots or Vulcans. By definition, controversial appellate cases arise in situations where reasonable people disagree about how to construe and apply the law.

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