Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Sonia way to the Supreme Court

Despite the best efforts of major conservative groups such as the Fox Corporation and the Judicial Confirmation Network (also see above YouTube video) it is almost certain that Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, will be voted the replacement for David Souter by the Senate after Barack Obama nominated her on the 26th May.

Seemingly, the only thing that stands in her way is Ricci v. DeStefano. In the case, Sotomayor appears to approve of affirmative action (the American name for 'positive discrimination') when a city in Conneticut refused to promote any of a group of firefighters because there were no African-Americans amongst them.

In her judgment, Sotomayor describes the decision as "facially race-neutral" which has baffled a lot of legal critics. The fact of the matter though is that under the American system it is likely that the city would have been sued whatever decision it made and this is to some extent being explored as the case lies in the Supreme Court at the moment.

Most major critics though are looking at the wider implications of the decision. They suggest that race and sex should be irrelevant when deciding who gets promoted and some hint that the same logic should apply to Sotomayor herself. At first glance it does look like the appointment was a political one and appeases both the female and Latino demographics but Obama insists that his decision was based on her intellect and broad legal experience. However, her background does make Republican criticism harder. Any major opposition to Sotomayor will only tend to alienate female and Hispanic voters even more.

Some have suggested that Sotomayor is more to the left than any of the other judges on the bench whilst others believe she is keen to make the law rather than to simply interpret it. Overall this seems unlikely and can be attributed to an errant quote pulled out of the dusty archives somewhere. As a matter of fact, Sotomayor hasn't yet ruled on some of the more contentious issues in American politics such as gay marriage which only makes her a less controversial choice. This also means there is a slim possibility that this decision could backfire but for the time being this is looking like a very shrewd appointment.