Sotomayor for the Supreme Court

A graduate of Yale and the University of California Berkeley, Vito de la Cruz lives and practices federal criminal law in Northern Nevada.

I was struck by the brouhaha on the extreme right over the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Folks like Tancredo, Gingrich and Limbaugh cried out in anguished panic that President Obama had nominated a racist to the high court. Gordon Liddy croaked in as well, praying that Judge Sotomayor not be menstruating during her conference meetings with senators because, he said, “That would be really bad. Lord knows what we would get then.”

Gingrich had the good sense (political or otherwise) to back off from his outrageous claim. Tancredo didn’t, but good sense (political or otherwise) has never really been associated with the former congressman from Colorado. Limbaugh flip-flopped from his initial bombast and dove for shallower waters. And Liddy, well, does anyone really care what a burglar thinks?

Judge Sotomayor’s qualifications have been set out extensively elsewhere and are too numerous for this limited space. However, a couple of things bear emphasizing because they mirror what honest, hardworking Americans prize highly in their public officials but too rarely get—integrity, discipline, even-handedness, and success against huge odds. A Republican appointed Judge Sotomayor to her first federal judgeship. A Democrat elevated her to the federal appeals court. In more than 300 written opinions, her reasoning has been logical and anchored in established law. I haven’t always agreed with her decisions. After all, I’m a criminal defense lawyer and make my living disagreeing with judges. But, it is clear that Judge Sotomayor’s decisions are not one-sided or moored in ideology. Her decisions are even-handed and based on the factual and legal issues presented by the case before her. That is how a good judge should decide cases. In other words, for those like Liddy and crew, Judge Sotomayor decides cases with integrity, judicial discipline, and even-handedness. Perhaps that is what makes their chest-thumping opposition so pathetic.

Or, is it something else altogether that makes the extreme right’s opposition to Judge Sotomayor’s nomination so comical? Is it because she is smart? Do the Limbaughs of the country not want smart people deciding the important issues of our day? Or, is it because she came from humble beginnings and now stands on the threshold of the highest court in the land, nominated by an African-American president? Do the Tancredos and Gingrichs out there seriously believe that only in their hands is our judiciary safe? Someone needs to tell them that Justice is no longer for the “Just Us” club.

Is it because Judge Sotomayor pulled herself up by her bootstraps and did it through hard-work, discipline, and, yes, that word again, integrity?

I, for one, believe that a brilliant, principled Latina from humble origins is exactly what the Supreme Court needs.