Friday, May 29, 2009
Even I Know This
I guess I'd have blogfodder for months if I were to point out the stupidity of every argument the right wing crazies are making about Sonia Sotomayor. Of the quotes they're bouncing around like fury-fueled fireballs, nearly all are taken out of context and/or edited to look different from the original intent. (That's rich, isn't it: original intent being a favorite buzzword, courtwise.) But those are being handled pretty well; they pretty much debunk themselves, since all is needed is the full quote and context. Same, I'd say, with the claim that she's too sharp-tongued. Tough questioning is expected of appellate judges. Ask überhero of the right wing, Antonin Scalia. But he has, y'know, balls, not ovaries.
There's a couple, though, that are quasi-factual and which might get traction since, like so many things onto which the RWS™ latch, it takes a little explanation. Worse, it needs actual thought! And, given the fact that truth is hardly the coin of the Republican realm, it may need repeating. (I heard John Cornyn on NPR yesterday, willfully ignoring the fact that federal appeals courts are not simply a way station on the path to the Supreme Court. Federal courts of appeals are, for all but a tiny percentage of cases, as high as appeals get.)
People are trying to make something of the fact that sixty percent of Judge Sotomayor's cases that were heard by the Supreme Court were reversed. My god. If ever there were proof of incompetence.... And that guy in the paraprevious post, Alito or whatever his name is, his reversal rate was (ready, set...) one hundred percent. ONE HUNDRED!! (There were two.) How he slipped by the non-partisan scrutiny of the Republicans is beyond me. (On the NPR show, Senator Cornyn also said he hadn't heard the quote from Alito, about empathy... Funny how that works, huh? Not paying attention, or not caring when it was his guy?)
So here's the deal (and need I say again I lived with a guy who was both a state appeals court judge and a state supreme court justice): supreme courts pick and choose. Nearly all the opinions of the appeals court stand, because the Supreme Court opts not to take them. When they do, it's because there's a larger issue of some sort. They take them, in part, because they have issues with the lower court ruling. By definition, then, cases accepted by the Supreme Court have a higher chance of being overturned. Which is why Smiling Sam got nailed to the degree he did. Sonia Sotomayor's reversal rate is, evidently, a little lower than average. Of her hundreds of opinions, nearly all stood as rendered. But let's not let a few facts get in the way of a good hissy fit.
The other issue, which is really part of the same thing, is the faux (or is that spelled Fox) outrage over a comment she made about appeals courts setting policy. Outrageous. Cornyn didn't like it one bit, not one bit. The Supreme Court, he said, is the one that sets policy. Wow.
So according to the good Senator from Texas, where Bushlaw and Gonzaleslaw are as good as it gets, it's okay that the Supreme Court sets policy. That's not "legislating from the bench." Surprise: in that, we agree. When the court rules, it's obvious that policy is made. Otherwise, what's the point? And here's the thing, Senator: as we've just learned, nearly all decisions at the appeals level go no further. The point Judge Sotomayor was making was in comparing her role on the appeals court to that on the circuit court, on which she'd previously served. Not really complicated; but, admittedly, it does take about two thoughts strung together to get it.
And there's the problem.
[Update, 6/1: Seems people who know more than I do say the same thing.]