News & Notes

There’s a lot to catch up with after vacation so I’ll comment on several issues.  First off I’ll be away again next week to go kayaking in Maine.  I will have my laptop but squeezing in writing while away with the family can be difficult, especially since we’ll be sharing the computer again.

Sen. Jim Bunning has decided to retire rather than lose.  The former Phillies perfect game pitcher sullied his legacy by shilling for extreme right wing causes in the Senate.  His strange, unpredictable behavior of late became bizarre and resulted in his own Party turning upon him.  What else is new for the GOP?

Speaking of the Phillies a fan was beaten to death in the parking lot last week.  This came as no surprise to me.  I had a scary experience there when I had Sunday season tickets.  This is a major reason I stopped going to games there.  When I contacted the team about the unsafe conditions in their own parking lot they couldn’t care less.  They have allowed these rowdies to take over their facility and it was only a matter of time until tragedy happened.

On the good news side Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.  It isn’t even August and we are this far in the process.  Maybe we can even get a real liberal next time.

Are you as fed up with the death of customer service as I am?  I recently had some really bad experiences.  Monday I was in a Redner’s market when an employee in a hurry to go home almost ran me down in the aisle.  I mentioned sarcastically (as I too often need to do) to “excuse me for getting in your way, I’m only a customer.”  This is designed to remind them that customers are too important to be rude towards.  Her reaction?  She began laughing.  I put all my purchases back and left the store.  Why should we tolerate such horrid customer service?  Vote with your feet and shop elsewhere.

Then there are the rude drivers.  People right on red doesn’t mean you can run red lights.  The law requires that you STOP first and insure no oncoming traffic is coming.  I’m fed up with people trying to crash into me while running red lights.  This is a bad law because there’s no traffic enforcement because the Keystone Kops can’t patrol everywhere.

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan has decided to run for Congress in the 15th CD.  Charlie Dent hasn’t had a serious challenger until now.  Callahan is smart, young, handsome and a real up and comer.  Dent’s people are giving him serious credibility by attacking him already.  They should be worried.

Health care reform is dead.  The current proposed legislation will do almost nothing.  Failure to go for the best resulted in getting nothing.  Blue Dogs and Republicans are to be thanked the next time you get sick, get denied by your insurer or die because you cannot get in any waiting line for care.  The delaying tactics of the GOP have killed reform.  What a shame.

I was on a blogger conference call with President Obama and David Axelrod last week.  Obama said he had serious reservations about health care coops.  We’ll see if he winds up signing a bill in which coops are the “reform.”  He sounded very good on the call and having the opportunity to listen directly to the President and his chief adviser was amazing.

The mortgages with preferential VIP terms given to Senators Dodd and Conrad have turned out to be bad news for both Democrats.  After denying they knew they were receiving sweetheart deals Countrywide now is saying both were told they were getting special terms because of who they were.  Hubris always is the fall guy when powerful people allow their power to go to their heads.  I don’t care which Party to which you belong, if you do wrong we’ll call you on the carpet.  Both of these men should resign.

Last week’s sting in New Jersey surprises no one.  The corruption there is depressing and is so endemic to the process you’d swear the state was part of Philadelphia.  Clean them all out and send them all to prison.  Violating the public trust these days is only good for 55 month sentences regardless of your level of corruption.  Shame on the courts too.

KBR electrocuted 17 soldiers because they cut costs to increase profits running their massive war profiteering operations in Iraq.  Credit to Sen. Casey for pursuing this issue but Cheney’s company got off the hook today.  Part of the reason for government is that some vital services and duties should not be done for profit.  Military operations, prisons and health care are obvious examples.  Every time we make these for profit the greed takes over, we have endless wars, judges sending kids to prison by denying them their right to lawyers, millions of people incarcerated, and tens of millions of people with no access to medical care.  Shame on us for privatizing government.

The people called “Birthers” are insane.  Claiming Barack Obama cannot be president because he was born in Kenya illustrates their complete lack of intelligence.  The birth certificate and two newspapers in which his birth announcement was published when he was born in Hawaii were made public before last year’s election.  This is the same stupidity which results in people denying the Holocaust, global warming and evolution.  Meanwhile we wonder why our students are falling behind in science?  Facts are stubborn things, they do not disappear simply because you wish they would.  Lou Dobbs is one of the most visible idiots fomenting this craziness.  It’s time CNN took him off the air before they lose whatever credibility they retain.

Sessions: No Sotomayor Filibuster

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama announced at today’s Supreme Court hearing that the GOP will not filibuster the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.  How gracious of the man since his Party doesn’t have the necessary votes to mount such an action.  He is the symbol of disingenuousness.  There’s nothing like announcing you won’t do something you cannot do anyway.

Republicans have been attacking Sotomayor on account of her race since her nomination.  It is alright for Alabamans like Sessions to defend the Ku Klux Klan and even join the white supremacist group but not for members of minorities to join organizations celebrating their heritages.  We each bring our own experiences, backgrounds and perspectives to what we do and we see this quite often on the Court.  This is the human experience and we celebrate each other’s perspectives, not condemn them.  Judge Sotomayor is highly qualified to sit on the Court.  I don’t know her positions on many issues but I won’t disqualify her based on something superficial like her ethnicity or race and Republicans have shamed themselves once again by revealing their true identities and removing their white sheets.

Promoting Firemen

Five activist Justices on the Supreme Court rewrote Title VII of the Civil Rights Act yesterday and no one on the right wing is screaming bloody murder.  Instead they are claiming the 5-4 vote was actually 9-0 (we already knew they’d flunked math) and that the decision sinks the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Court.

Actually it illustrates that she ruled correctly because she and two other Judges decided correctly that the New Haven firefighters suit violated Title VII as previous Courts had ruled.  She actually upheld precedent rather than creating new law.  It was five Justices appointed by Republicans and whom condemn “activist judges” who do exactly what they did who rewrote federal law yesterday.

It is interesting that Republicans only condemn activist judges when they do so against their wishes but not when they decide something based on race, creed, gender or so on which they desire.  It is time to end this specious argument about the role of judges if the right wing lunatic fringe cannot be consistent.

Prejudices and Perspectives

President Barack Obama appointed a new super computer to the Supreme Court this spring.  The announcement came as an old IBM model neared obsolescence and their is much hue and cry throughout the land about the legal software the new machine will bring to future cases.

What if that had been the announcement recently instead of the one which appointed Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the high court?  Machines, after all, are run by the software, not human emotions, life experiences or personal perspectives.  Conservatives are having a field day over something Sotomayor said and have called her a racist.  She had the temerity to say she could make better decisions that white men who have dominated the Court for our entire history.

Looking st many of the dreadful decisions of the Supreme Court since 1783 one can easily agree with the Judge.  From Dred Scott to Bush v Gore white men have used their life’s perspectives to control the country in ways which have not always been just.  Th elaw is not something which a computer software program can determine.  It is a living thing which evolves, a concept which changes with time, experience and perspective.  Each new Justice brings their own unique histoy an dlife’s experiences to the bench.  Judge Sotomayor is no different from Samuel Alito (Catholic), Antonin Scalia (Catholic), John Roberts ( privileged white man), Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Jewish woman) or Clarence Thomas (African American angry at affirmative action) have brought.

We see every individual Justice’s perspectives in their writings, questions and decisions.  No Justice has ever sat on the Court and decided cases like a computer might.  This is why we do not appoint computers.  We appoint people with all their prejudices and perspectives.  The right wing does not like the perspectives Sonia Sotomayor brings so they have relentlessly attacked her perspectives.  This has now extended to personal attacks by calling her racist for daring to speak truth to power.  The Supreme Court has been dominated by male WASPs for over two hundred years.  The current make up of the Court has ONE woman, ONE African American who is a traitor to his race, and NO Hispanics.

Clarence Thomas is an excellent example of how an individual’s life’s history shapes his legal thinking.  Replacing the revered Thurgood Marshall as the token Black he does not believe in standing up for his race.  He opposes affirmative action which seeks to reverse 300 years of oppression and racism.  If any Justice ever exemplified how a personal life experience shapes one’s perspectives it is Justice Thomas.

Why then is it that Judge Sotomayor is receiving such exterme treatment?  Because she will be a Justice who has said publicly she would stand up for her gender and race.  That is scary to white men who feel their privilege is threatened.  I’m sorry but after having all but five Supreme Court Justices represent your perspective it is time for new blood not a machine to spit out pre programmed legal opinions based on a software program.  If there ever was an example of the term  garbage in, garbage out, it is the history of the white male dominated Supreme Court.  It is time for a new program, fresh perspectives and diversity.

White House Statement on Sotomayor

I spent three days of the past four power washing at the new house (what a difference!) and finished the entire pool area and patio.  It gave me some time to think and I thought Sotomayor would be today’s pick for the Supreme Court.  It also occured to me that GWB would have waited until next year to make this selection in order to maximize its political impact.  Everything W did was dictated by politics, a path which led to the ruination of the GOP.

Appointing Sonia Sotomayor in a major election year would have laid down a challenge to Republicans to dare refuse a highly qualified woman and Latina.  Such actions against this nominee, already begun by Senate Republicans, will now occur in an off year instead.  This is a significant difference between Bush and Obama.  This president does what he thinks is right when he thinks it is right and let’s the politics atke care of itself.

The cold, calculated political machinations emanating from the Bush White House under the auspices of Karl Rove disgusted Americans.  It is a breath of fresh air to see an Obama nominate his choice for the best person rather than keep her in his hip pocket for a choice next year.

As such the White House has issued the following information about Sotomayor:

Judge Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since October 1998. She has been hailed as “one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting” for her thoughtful opinions,i and as “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity”ii for her ascent to the federal bench from an upbringing in a South Bronx housing project.

Her American story and three decade career in nearly every aspect of the law provide Judge Sotomayor with unique qualifications to be the next Supreme Court Justice. She is a distinguished graduate of two of America’s leading universities. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. Before she was promoted to the Second Circuit by President Clinton, she was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. She replaces Justice Souter as the only Justice with experience as a trial judge.

Judge Sotomayor served 11 years on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country, and has handed down decisions on a range of complex legal and constitutional issues. If confirmed, Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit, said “Sonia is an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind. She brings a wealth of knowledge and hard work to all her endeavors on our court. It is both a pleasure and an honor to serve with her.”

In addition to her distinguished judicial service, Judge Sotomayor is a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was also an adjunct professor at New York University Law School until 2007.

An American Story

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York during World War II – her mother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps during the war. Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her new found love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law.

Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education. Driven by an indefatigable work ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school. Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She first heard about the Ivy League from her high school debate coach, Ken Moy, who attended Princeton University, and she soon followed in his footsteps after winning a scholarship.

At Princeton, she continued to excel, graduating summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. At Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. One of Sotomayor’s former Yale Law School classmates, Robert Klonoff (now Dean of Lewis & Clark Law School), remembers her intellectual toughness from law school: “She would stand up for herself and not be intimidated by anyone.” [Washington Post, 5/7/09]

A Champion of the Law

Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system – yielding a depth of experience and a breadth of perspectives that will be invaluable – and is currently not represented — on our highest court. New York City District Attorney Morgenthau recently praised Sotomayor as an “able champion of the law” who would be “highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character could be assets.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09]

A Fearless and Effective Prosecutor

Fresh out of Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor became an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan in 1979, where she tried dozens of criminal cases over five years. Spending nearly every day in the court room, her prosecutorial work typically involved “street crimes,” such as murders and robberies, as well as child abuse, police misconduct, and fraud cases. Robert Morgenthau, the person who hired Judge Sotomayor, has described her as a “fearless and effective prosecutor.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09] She was cocounsel in the “Tarzan Murderer” case, which convicted a murderer to 67 and ½ years to life in prison, and was sole counsel in a multiple-defendant case involving a Manhattan housing project shooting between rival family groups.

A Corporate Litigator

She entered private practice in 1984, becoming a partner in 1988 at the firm Pavia and Harcourt. She was a general civil litigator involved in all facets of commercial work including, real estate, employment, banking, contracts, and agency law. In addition, her practice had a significant concentration in intellectual property law, including trademark, copyright and unfair competition issues. Her typical clients were significant corporations doing international business. The managing partner who hired her, George Pavia, remembers being instantly impressed with the young Sonia Sotomayor when he hired her in 1984, noting that “she was just ideal for us in terms of her background and training.” [Washington Post, May 7, 2009]

A Sharp and Fearless Trial Judge

Her judicial service began in October 1992 with her appointment to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. Still in her 30s, she was the youngest member of the court. From 1992 to 1998, she presided over roughly 450 cases. As a trial judge, she earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into departing from the rule of law. In 1995, for example, she issued an injunction against Major League Baseball owners, effectively ending a baseball strike that had become the longest work stoppage in professional sports history and had caused the cancellation of the World Series the previous fall. She was widely lauded for saving baseball. Claude Lewis of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that by saving the season, Judge Sotomayor joined “the ranks of Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams.”

A Tough, Fair and Thoughtful Jurist

President Clinton appointed Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998. She is the first Latina to serve on that court, and has participated in over 3000 panel decisions, authoring roughly 400 published opinions. Sitting on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has tackled a range of questions: from difficult issues of constitutional law, to complex procedural matters, to lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. In this context, Sotomayor is widely admired as a judge with a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine. “‘She appreciates the complexity of issues,’ said Stephen L. Carter, a Yale professor who teaches some of her opinions in his classes. Confronted with a tough case, Carter said, ‘she doesn’t leap at its throat but reasons to get to the bottom of issues.'” For example, in United States v. Quattrone, Judge Sotomayor concluded that the trial judge had erred by forbidding the release of jurors’ names to the press, concluding after carefully weighing the competing concerns that the trial judge’s concerns for a speedy and orderly trial must give way to the constitutional freedoms of speech and the press.

Sotomayor also has keen awareness of the law’s impact on everyday life. Active in oral arguments, she works tirelessly to probe both the factual details and the legal doctrines in the cases before her and to arrive at decisions that are faithful to both. She understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts. For example, In United States v. Reimer, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion revoking the US citizenship for a man charged with working for the Nazis in World War II Poland, guarding concentration camps and helping empty the Jewish ghettos. And in Lin v. Gonzales and a series of similar cases, she ordered renewed consideration of the asylum claims of Chinese women who experienced or were threatened with forced birth control, evincing in her opinions a keen awareness of those women’s plights.

Judge Sotomayor’s appreciation of the real-world implications of judicial rulings is paralleled by her sensible practicality in evaluating the actions of law enforcement officers. For example, in United States v. Falso, the defendant was convicted of possessing child pornography after FBI agents searched his home with a warrant. The warrant should not have been issued, but the agents did not know that, and Judge Sotomayor wrote for the court that the officers’ good faith justified using the evidence they found. Similarly in United States v. Santa, Judge Sotomayor ruled that when police search a suspect based on a mistaken belief that there is a valid arrest warrant out on him, evidence found during the search should not be suppressed. Ten years later, in Herring v. United States, the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion. In her 1997 confirmation hearing, Sotomayor spoke of her judicial philosophy, saying” I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it.” Her record on the Second Circuit holds true to that statement. For example, in Hankins v. Lyght, she argued in dissent that the federal government risks “an unconstitutional trespass” if it attempts to dictate to religious organizations who they can or cannot hire or dismiss as spiritual leaders. Since joining the Second Circuit, Sotomayor has honored the Constitution, the rule of law, and justice, often forging consensus and winning conservative colleagues to her point of view.

A Commitment to Community

Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her family, to her co-workers, and to her community. Judge Sotomayor is a doting aunt to her brother Juan’s three children and an attentive godmother to five more. She still speaks to her mother, who now lives in Florida, every day. At the courthouse, Judge Sotomayor helped found the collegiality committee to foster stronger personal relationships among members of the court. Seizing an opportunity to lead others on the path to success, she recruited judges to join her in inviting young women to the courthouse on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and mentors young students from troubled neighborhoods Her favorite project, however, is the Development School for Youth program, which sponsors workshops for inner city high school students. Every semester, approximately 70 students attend 16 weekly workshops that are designed to teach them how to function in a work setting. The workshop leaders include investment bankers, corporate executives and Judge Sotomayor, who conducts a workshop on the law for 25 to 35 students. She uses as her vehicle the trial of Goldilocks and recruits six lawyers to help her. The students play various roles, including the parts of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, Goldilocks and the jurors, and in the process they get to experience openings, closings, direct and cross-examinations. In addition to the workshop experience, each student is offered a summer job by one of the corporate sponsors. The experience is rewarding for the lawyers and exciting for the students, commented Judge Sotomayor, as “it opens up possibilities that the students never dreamed of before.” [Federal Bar Council News, Sept./Oct./Nov. 2005, p.20] This is one of many ways that Judge Sotomayor gives back to her community and inspires young people to achieve their dreams.

She has served as a member of the Second Circuit Task Force on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and was formerly on the Boards of Directors of the New York Mortgage Agency, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

_______________________

i American Philosophical Society, Biographical Essays of Moderators, Speakers, Inductees and Award Recipients, Annual General Meeting, April 2003, at 36.

ii Honorary Degree Citation, Pace University School of Law, 2003 Commencement.

Obama to Name Sotomayor to Court

Barack Obama is set to nominate Sonia Sotomayor to succeed David Souter on the Supreme Court.  Sotomayor was appointed as a Circuit Court of Appeals Judge by President George H.W. Bush and will be levated to Justice by a Democrat.  A woman and Hispanic she will bring both perspectives to her work and be the third woman and first Hispanic to serve.

Seven of the nine current Justices have been appointed by Republicans and George W. Bush was able to appoint two extreme right wing Justices during his eight years.  At that time Senate Republicans claimed that judicial nominations not be filibustered.  They have since filibustered almost every significant piece of legislation.  It will be interesting to see if they decide, suddenly, that filibustering Supreme Court appointments is appropriate.

I hope the Obama Administration vetted Sotomayor better than they did most of their other appointments.  Another embarrassment at this level will undercut much of the President’s remaining political capital.  

Should Republicans gear up their propaganda machine, as expected, they risk alienating both critical groups of voters:  women and Latinos.  Will they gamble their already small bit of credibility and tick off even more Hispanics?  My bet is yes.  The GOP had its way in naming extremists Scalis, Thomas, Roberts and Alito but will try to argue that liberals not be allowed to balance those right wing votes.  If Republican presidents have been able to appoint ideologues why should Democrats be prohibited from nominating liberals?  Elections do have consequences and this is one of them.

Pressure will be on Arlen Specter to behave better during this advise and consent procedure.  His conduct towards Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings continues to reverberate among many women and they will be watching to insure the Senator shows the proper deference and respect to Ms. Sotomayor.  Should he not he can kiss his seat good bye.