Sotomayor, Authoritarian.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

I mentioned the other day that the emerging image of Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is not one of an “empathetic” or “activist” judge, but one of a left-leaning authoritarian, sort of a mirror image of Samuel Alito. She’ll be a reliable vote to uphold government power, be it for cops, prosecutors, regulatory agencies, or the executive.

It’s looking more and that way. From today’s L.A. Times

Though her critics portray the Supreme Court nominee as a liberal activist, her colleagues and legal opponents in the early 1980s draw a picture of her as a zealous prosecutor whose experiences combating crime have made her, according to experts who have studied her legal decisions, something of a law-and-order judge, especially when it comes to police searches and the use of evidence…

Gerald Lefcourt, a high- profile criminal defense lawyer in New York, appeared before Sotomayor while she was a federal district court judge. “She always seemed to be leaning toward the government — not outrageously so, but if you look at a lot of her criminal law cases you can see she’s pretty conservative,” he said.

Lefcourt wasn’t surprised. He had faced off against Sotomayor when she was an assistant district attorney.

Sotomayor was “very police-like,” he said. “Dismissive of what the defendant had to say about anything.”

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43 Responses to “Sotomayor, Authoritarian.”

  1. #1 |  Tsu Dho Nihm | 

    Wonderful. Just what we need. I can’t imagine any of the D’s breaking ranks and voting against her nomination, so it looks like we’re pretty much doomed to have an ever-increasingly authoritarian Court.

  2. #2 |  Mojopin | 

    Funny — LA times is trying to sell a dem. SCOTUS nominee as a conservative. In the end, it’s the libertarians that are screwed.

    “Yeah, yeah, yeah…she may play identity politics and she may or may not be a racist, but hey, she’s for law and order! You get your big government. We get our big government. Deal?”

  3. #3 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I law-and-order, tough-on-crime judge. Now there’s a rarity.

  4. #4 |  Matt I. | 

    You can kiss the exclusionary rule goodbye.

    I don’t know if anyone should be surprised by this. The reality is that there are NO incentives for ANY checks on government power, or against the further curtailing of personal liberties, be it from the politicians, judicial branch, president or corporations.

    The sooner we realize this and stop hoping that someone will hop on the Supreme Court and solve everything, the better. The reality is that it is YOU who is responsible for changing the situation. What have YOU done in that regard lately? And writing on a blog doesn’t count.

    If you look at the situation from a security vs. freedom standpoint, the harsh reality is that most people here (on this blog) would rather have security than freedom. Don’t believe me? Then, why are you not yet wanted by the ‘law’? At what point do you stand up and say, ‘I don’t not care whether I live or die, I will not put up with this, I’m going to personally take action’? At this point, most of you still value your life enough to put up with further incursions of your liberty.

    Until we pass that point, things will continue to get worse.

  5. #5 |  claude | 

    “If you look at the situation from a security vs. freedom standpoint, the harsh reality is that most people here (on this blog) would rather have security than freedom.”

    You must be new around here.

  6. #6 |  Don Lloyd | 

    All you need to know is her successful service as a Manhattan prosecutor. The only hope is that the African-American community will wake up to the hundreds or thousands of black males that must have been incarcerated or coerced into plea bargains under her oversight.

    Regards, Don

  7. #7 |  Mattocracy | 

    A law school friend of mine once said that she thought there was a systematic attempt by both parties to create a supreme court that would consistantly rule against the constitution in an effort to rewrite it without having to use the legislative process. I brushed off that idea, thinking that just because W. was doing it didn’t mean that the next one would. But I guess it’s pretty obvious now how niave I was.

  8. #8 |  MassHole | 

    Here’s a recent article on Chief Justice Roberts.

  9. #9 |  ktc2 | 

    Authoritarian is the one thing both parties agree on. Of course that’s all we’ll get from here on out. Say goodbye to all your “rights” if you haven’t already. They exist now only so long as they aren’t “incovenient” for the state.

  10. #10 |  ktc2 | 

    Ugh…spell check!


  11. #11 |  ktc2 | 

    From the above linked page

    “In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.”

    A youngish jack booted thug who will pervert the court for the state for many decades to come. Probably Bush’s worst domestic action.

  12. #12 |  Brian Moore | 

    Unfortunately this a feature that both Republicans and Democrats want, so it’s not really going to be a real debate issue.

  13. #13 |  LibertyTiger | 

    Whether left-leaning or right-leaning we’ll continue to get SCOTUS judges that are state-leaning. As long as they’re able to focus the debate through their left-right paradigm the real issues will be clouded. Libertarians need to open peoples eyes so they can see the debate through another paradigm, state vs. liberty.

  14. #14 |  Marty | 

    this isn’t new- since fdr, there’s been no secrecy about the executive branch using the scotus to undermine the constitution. the story would be if Obama wasn’t doing this…

    #3 Matt l-

    I appreciate the bombast and passion, but… ‘ What have YOU done in that regard lately? And writing on a blog doesn’t count.’ is a little over the top. Dedicated bloggers (Radley, Luis Granado, Rogier van Bakel, etc, etc, etc, etc) have been instrumental in getting the word out about govt abuse and intrusions into our freedoms. This has resulted in people learning to stand up and many bureaucrats getting a virtual tarring and feathering. The guys doing the Motorhome Diaries are taking the word to the street and opening eyes.

    People who exercise their rights by starting businesses, buying property (rental and personal), travel, building windturbines in their garages for electricity, and pursuing their happiness, despite bureaucratic obstacles, are making a difference.

    I’m not sure guys acting like Wallace getting his head chopped off and yelling ‘FREEDOM’, while not offering any ideas are making a difference, though.

  15. #15 |  Ginger Dan | 

    Mattocracy — that comment just blew my mind!! I guess I didn’t figure these folks were smart enough to make such an effort, but everyday is full of surprises.

    During Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, what are the odds the phrases “exclusionary rule” and “Fourth Amendment” don’t come out of a single Congressmen’s mouth?

    I’d start with 4:1

  16. #16 |  scott in phx az | 

    repeat after me –

    modern day “liberals” are not interested in individual freedom.

  17. #17 |  Marty | 

    ‘modern day “liberals” are not interested in individual freedom.’

    ‘modern day’ conservatives are?!!

  18. #18 |  nemo | 

    If anyone’s getting a ‘virtual tar and feathering’, it’s not the parties that deserve it the most, it’s libertarians’

    Just take a look at any Left-leaning blog and you find libertarians lumped in with the Bush Cabal and blamed for the economic mess, as if true libertarian policies had been the foundation of Bush’s reign and by application had caused it.

    This can only be deliberate. The freedoms which we (previously!) enjoyed were lower-case ‘libertarian’ in scope. Denigrating the word, as the words ‘liberal’ and ‘isolationist’ were, cannot be an accident, but intentional, to foster the idea in the public’s mind that there’s something wrong with their underlying concepts…a dangerous precedent.

  19. #19 |  Hamburgler007 | 

    I always find it somewhat appalling when I read an article about some case making it to the supreme court, and the executive branch appealing to the court to rule in a certain way. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of separation of powers when you have another branch in your pocket.

  20. #20 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Democrats and Republicans — two wings of the same bird of prey.

    The incentive for government limiting itself is that of the parasite not killing its host organism. It’s a risky enterprise for the parasite, finding that margin where maximum exploitation turns into death of the host, and thus, death of itself.

    In the end, the parasite can never know where that margin is. The result is always death.

    Then rebirth.

    “And they’re only gonna change this place by killing everybody in the human race.” — The Police, Invisible Sun

  21. #21 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Wonderful. Just what we need. I can’t imagine any of the D’s breaking ranks and voting against her nomination, so it looks like we’re pretty much doomed to have an ever-increasingly authoritarian Court.

    Correct, and I’d also add that you are foolish if you think the Democrats are going to stip this. We have solid evidence to the contrary with Sotomayor.

  22. #22 |  Whim | 

    It would be an interesting analysis of the Federal judiciary to compare the background of each individual, comparing those who only served as Prosecutoring Attorneys/District Attorneys, vs. those who served as Public Defenders or Defense Lawyers.

    I would suspect that the number of Federal Judges whose background was limited primarily to Prosecuting Attorneys/DA’s far exceeds the numbers emanating from Public Defender/Defense Attorney ranks…..

  23. #23 |  Andy Craig | 

    Gene Healy says she seems decently anti-unitary-executive, but that’s the only bright spot I’ve seen so far.

  24. #24 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #22 Whim

    I would suspect that the number of Federal Judges whose background was limited primarily to Prosecuting Attorneys/DA’s far exceeds the numbers emanating from Public Defender/Defense Attorney ranks…..

    That’s because defense attorneys are sleazy low-lifes who allow criminals to weasel their way out of doing time for their crimes by whining about how their so-called “Constitutional rights” were violated and other technicalities (like the exclusionary rule) that have nothing to do with guilt or innocence.

    That’s why so many cops feel they have no choice but to dispense justice on the spot. Sure they kill or injure innocent people now and then, but it’s you soft on crime people who leave them no choice. Next time you see a story about a cop who accidentally killed the wrong person, go beat the crap out of your closest “compassionate” friend, because it’s those milquetoasts who are responsible. Not the cop.

    All I hear around here is how many people are incarcerated in the U.S. compared to repressive totalitarian states. Whine, whine, whine. Sure we have a lot of people in prison. That’s because we have a tradition of knowing how to get the riffraff off the street. In other words, we’re a hell of a lot better at fighting crime than those other countries. It’s not something to apologize for. It’s a badge of honor. But, the fact is that probably only half the people who belong in prison are actually there, thanks to those defense attorney’s you talk so highly of.

    The whole country would be a better place if we just skipped the trial phase of incarceration. If a cop arrests you, the chances are 99.99999999% that you did it. Everyone knows that.

  25. #25 |  Z | 

    A Yale educated appellate court judge who used to be a prosecutor? Way to think outside the box. Still, I’d take Sotomayor over Edith Jones on the 5th.

  26. #26 |  scott | 

    Dave Krueger is like the libertarian version of Scrappleface.

  27. #27 |  Mattocracy | 

    @ #18 | nemo |

    I do agree with that comment, but keep in mind that plenty of conservatives call libertarians a bunch bed wetting liberals as well. Both parties lump us in with the other in an attempt to marginalize both libertarians and the other mainstream party.

    Ultimately, I think libertarians do a good job distinguishing ourselves from the other two parties. But liberal and conservative bloggers/pundits have agendas. They will always lie about libertarian principals.

  28. #28 |  KT | 

    Dave Krueger,
    I suspect from your comment either you’re a cop or you just escaped an asylum. My father was a cop until he couldn’t stomach it anymore. His fellow police habitually arrested workers homeward bound after cashing their checks at the tavern.The cops would roll their victims then release them. He found that intolerable. He used to say afterwards that you have to wash out as a pimp and a cab driver before you can be a cop. Which brings up the question, which one are you?

  29. #29 |  Ginger Dan | 


    I’m pretty sure Dave’s comments were written with the sarcasm tags on full blast….

  30. #30 |  Bill | 

    KT, I think you have to get to know Dave a little better. I worry when he’s NOT being sarcastic.

  31. #31 |  claude | 

    “Dave Krueger,
    I suspect from your comment either you’re a cop or you just escaped an asylum.”

    LOL!! Heres a tip… put your tounge in your cheek and then read his comments again. Itll work better that way. ;-)

  32. #32 |  Marty | 

    #18 | nemo

    the difference I see- a ‘virtual tar and feathering’ is powerful because it exposes the truth. I agree with the your contention of the dangers of misleading the public with propaganda, but I like to believe the truth is more powerful.

  33. #33 |  claude | 

    Well, if there was even a shadow of a doubt about how screwed we are with this nominee…..

    “8 national law enforcement groups endorse Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor”,1,722490.story

  34. #34 |  James | 

    Aren’t the kind of people attracted to being a Judge authoritarian to begin with? By hoping for someone who isn’t law crazy aren’t we hoping for the exception and not the rule?

  35. #35 |  Currence | 

    There are conservatives and liberals who are authoritarians and those who are not (broadly speaking of course). Any attempt by a liberal or a conservative to make this the problem entirely of the other camp (“all liberals…”, “all conservatives…”) are doing a disservice to liberty and playing into the authoritarians’ hands.

    Disappointments all around. I’m disappointed (but not surprised): that the Dems would nominate an authoritarian, that the opposition party Reps would spend most of their energy on inane bs (‘wise latina’), and that, by and large, Dem-supporting/liberal blogs spend more time focusing on rebutting the inane Rep attacks instead of focusing on the essentials, like Radley is doing here. Kudos, Radley; I’m agitated.

    (I don’t know if there were any other, less authoritarian judges that Obama could have nominated, but, even if there weren’t, that wouldn’t make me any less agitated.)

    @ James, #34:

    There’s a difference between wanting to always defend law and order, and wanting to always defend those who act under the color of law and order. True justice requires that we are all equals under the law. It requires that one acknowledge that police officers, legislators, judges, presidents, etc. are just as likely (that is, have the same incentives: greed, petty vengeance, power-lust, etc.) to violate the rights of others as everyone else. The badge, the robes, the seat on capitol hill do not, by themselves, confer any legitimate authority: it is only one’s actions and ability to live up to what the badge, the robes, and the seat represent.

    But I agree with your first question/point: those who seek out power are likely to be authoritarian in the first place. Major drag, huh?

  36. #36 |  ktc2 | 

    Anytime law enforcement groups endorse a judge they should be removed from office immediately. It’s like having your chicken coop endorsed by the fox.

  37. #37 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Yet another boot stomping the face forever.

  38. #38 |  Ignorantia Juris - The House Always Wins | 

    […] Radley Balko: She’ll be a reliable vote to uphold government power, be it for cops, prosecutors, regulatory agencies, or the executive. […]

  39. #39 |  nemo | 

    I take it Sotomayor is not a member of the Federalist Society – that supplied so many anti-federalist rulings (such as Raich/Monson) – that would have returned many of the powers usurped by the FedGuv back to the States…in direct contravention of the FS’s stated goals.

    The majority of those warming their arses on SCOTUS benches are Statists on the Right. Sotomayer looks and sounds like a Statist from the Left. The SCOTUS is nothing but Statists One side uses Vaseline, the other KY jelly, but they both use sawed-off broom handles. So what’s the big deal?

  40. #40 |  Jeff | 

    Well, she at least has one decent forfeiture decision – see Krimstock v. Kelly

  41. #41 |  Billy | 

    From today’s NY Times –

    It’s yet another case of an innocent guy jailed (he’s free now, after 16 years..) having an appeal denied.

    “We have considered all of petitioner-appellant’s arguments and find them to be without merit,” the ruling said.

    This cost the guy another six years of his life…

  42. #42 |  Weekly Web Watch 06/08/09 – 06/14/09 « EXECUTIVE WATCH | 

    […] Healy and Radley Balko worry that Sonia Sotomayor defers too often to government at the expense of private liberties.  […]

  43. #43 |  Supreme Court Says Warrant Required for GPS Tracking | The Agitator | 

    […] think it’s probably time for me to concede that I was wrong about Sotomayor. (See here, here, here, and here.) Not only has she not been a liability in criminal justice cases, you could […]