July 13th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Sotomayor a cautious, careful liberal

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/13/toobin.sotomayor/art.sotomayor.thursday.gi.jpg caption="Sonia Sotomayor appears to view the Constitution much like retired Justice David Souter did."]
Jeffrey Toobin
CNN Senior Analyst

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.

Keep reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar • Jeffrey Toobin • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Peter

    Michael C. McHugh,


    Civil rights, affirmative action, etc., etc. Do you know how hollow that remark is?

    July 14, 2009 at 2:00 am |
  2. Peter


    There is hope. Hang in there.

    1 trillion and counting.

    July 14, 2009 at 1:58 am |
  3. Peter


    Of course. Hypocrisy's name ids "Liberal".

    July 14, 2009 at 1:57 am |
  4. Peter

    Racism ain't racism when it's reverse racism – flavor of the year.

    July 14, 2009 at 1:55 am |
  5. lisa

    While I look forward to watching the questions and answers, I can't help but wonder if any of this matters. I'm sure the senators will ask some really pointed questions, and Sotomayor will say as little as possible. I'm not referring to the syllable count either. Her mouth will move and nothing substantial will really come out. After all, there's no doubt about one thing, she does know the law. It will feel like The Puppet Show -only less entertaining – and at the end everyone will smile and clap and she'll be the next justice.
    I would truly like to hear legitimate explanations for her switch on the "we don't make laws, we apply them" thing as well as her thinking on the case of the Conneticut firefighters.
    I'm willing to give her a chance if she gives me a reason, but I have the sneaking suspicion this is going to look like an awards show.... A lot of back patting and some speeches that don't make sense to the majority of the audience.

    July 14, 2009 at 1:49 am |
  6. TheDankFrankSays

    Her "personal experiences" help guide her decision making....

    Oh the irony of a Latino woman tricking all the senators and news politicians with simple logic in English.

    I sure hope she uses her personal experiences to make decisions. Like.... in 1st grade where she learned to count and read.

    Seriously, I hope she uses those experiences.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:39 pm |
  7. David of Boston

    Is anyone at CNN aware that there has already been a Hispanic on the Supreme Court?

    His name was Benjamin Cardozo.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  8. Kathy, Chicago

    I'm glad that at least she is a woman. I don't think that she would have been my choice. I am starting to see the world in a much more conservative way.

    July 13, 2009 at 9:52 pm |
  9. Joe G. (Illinois)

    Obama has an agenda.. He wants “Equality for all..” With the lowest common denominator as the baseline.. People voted for him.. People were notified and well informed.. Now people act surprised of his choices.. “Equality for all.” Do you know who else want equality for all? The devil.. The devil want "hell on earth" equally for everybody.. No matter what your efforts or lack there off.. “Equality for all” that’s what he wants..

    July 13, 2009 at 9:52 pm |
  10. Lampe

    AnnieKate: I am surprised to hear that Sotomayer is a women is important to you. I guess it is only important to you that a Democratic women, is allowed to advance? Because from your remarks about Gov. Palin, I just assume you don't like her because she is a Republican?

    July 13, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  11. Joanne Osinkowski Ontario Canada

    This woman is very competent for the Job. The Republicans just want to make themselves look like they are earning their pay. Nothing but a bunch of cry babies republicans are!

    July 13, 2009 at 8:48 pm |
  12. Annie Kate

    I think Sotomayer would make a good Supreme. Her similarity to Souter in certain ways encourages me and the fact that she is a woman is also important to me. I think Obama made a very good choice when he nominated her for Souter's seat on the bench. Hope she gets it.

    July 13, 2009 at 8:23 pm |
  13. Katja

    What a shame that the Senators in the Judical committee take so much time and effort to decide if one person can do a job. Too bad those same Senators can't read a 1000 page bill that puts my yet un-realized grandchildren in debt. Vote all the bums and bumettes out! We need people who have more brains then ego.
    I hope this lovely Judge Sotomayor quietly chews them up.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  14. Milton Smith

    Sperm in a lab is pretty clever, hybids men women with bigger eys nueral grafting ports secret teched out ship and stuff is cool and to some degree real, cloned sheep is neat, but the man rex is the most fricken vicous thing i have ever encounterd. As they all massed in into the field lining up to the commander the air planes in the sky dropping bombs numbed the sense all night and day hybrids didn't look like a problem the man rex is the most meanest thing i ever saw. the bombs dropping on you is bad but watching hybrids destroy everything with their bare hands towering over you is fkc real too. Make shift genetic labs in the gehtos is pretty fkc bad dude.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  15. sara hunter

    Why does no one mention the fact that Sen. Sessions did not make it thru the process for the Supreme Court because he is a racist and still is. Why does no one read her whole statement that enclosed the words "wise latina female"?

    July 13, 2009 at 6:41 pm |
  16. RLWellman

    This is the problem of voting for a person just because he or she is a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. You need to look at what they have stood for over the years. When Sonia Sotomayer has 80% of her judgements overturned by a higher court, it looks like she is judging on her beliefs, instead of the law.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:08 pm |
  17. Lampe

    Why is she acting so meek and mild now? We have read her decsions, and her remarks, those are things said numerous times, so she can't say "It wasn't exactly what I meant to say." If she is the right one for the job, so be it, if not get onto something else. That is now that Obamas back home.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  18. Joanne Pacicca

    Let's not look to the past. Let's look to the future without bias. Is she the best candidate for the position? That is the only litmus test that should prevail.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  19. John

    For those "5 percent" of cases that come before the supreme court, those that have no specific law or precident, personal experiences must come into play. Anyone that refuses to admit that personal life experiences don't or shouldn't play a part in these type of decisions simply is not being honest and cannot be trusted. So many politicians are simply not smart or at least not honest.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:23 pm |

    I heared that G. .H. W Bush was very surprise about his choice to the Supreme Court but rest assured that this one will not be for Mr OBAMA

    July 13, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  21. Michael C. McHugh

    For most of our history, the Supreme Court has been made up of rich white guys who had considerable empathy for the upper classes and big business interests. We've had more than enough of that during teh Second Gilded Age of the last 30 years.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  22. Curtis Colons

    Sotomayor is the woman at the poker table playing meek and mild with a soft smile who also has the gun pointed under the table straight at you, which you'll never know good or bad until you make the deadly move or the game ends in well-being! God Bless you Sonja Sotomayor. Dios Bendiga mi gente.

    July 13, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  23. Cindy

    Thanks for the run down Toobin. I don't see what she thinks really matters. The court will still be evenly split. She is not going to be able to sway all of them to her kind of thinking all of the time. They all think on their own and are great at coming to their own decisions. If they were easily swayed then they would not be where they are today. So the fuss over her being appointed is a waste of time.


    July 13, 2009 at 10:51 am |