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Sotomayor's Short Opinions: Hiding From The Law



In his excellent speech during floor debate about Judge Sotomayor, Alabama's Jeff Sessions touched on what should be one of the most disturbing parts of the judge's record:
"Within the last three years, Judge Sotomayor has heard three monumentally important cases involving: the constitutional right to be free of racial discrimination, the right to keep and bear arms, and the Fifth Amendment right to one's private property. In all three of these cases, Judge Sotomayor joined or authored very brief opinions that avoided the kind of careful analysis we would expect of an appellate judge. In all three cases, individuals went to court with the plain text of the Constitution on their side. And in each case, Judge Sotomayor reached conclusions that denied individual Americans their rights against government power. "
Later: "Judge Sotomayor repeatedly stated, including in her opening statement, that litigants deserve explanations. That she looks into the facts, delves into the record, and explains to litigants why she rules for or against them. I have read the one-paragraph Ricci opinion. And Judge Sotomayor did not afford the firefighters the respect they deserved."
And: "After Maloney was decided, the Seventh Circuit also addressed this issue. Although the Seventh Circuit agreed with the Second Circuit, it reached this conclusion in a much more thorough and thoughtful manner that showed that the judges appreciated the significance of whether to apply the Second Amendment to the states. "
Likewise, he said, on the Didden v. Port Chester case involving eminent domain, "Judge Sotomayor's panel dismissed the merits of the plaintiffs' case in one paragraph."
And: "In these three recent cases, the litigants did not have their rights properly listened to nor protected, in my opinion. Is it because she would have preferred different results from the promotional exam for firefighters? Is it because she does not believe in the rights protected by the Second Amendment? Is it because she favors redevelopment? We are left to wonder, because the cases were certainly not decided based on the plain text of the Constitution and did not openly and thoroughly discuss the serious nature of the issues raised."
He also could have added that her opinion was equally and obnoxiously brief in the case of Hayden v. Pataki, where she would have ruled that currently incarcerated murderers and rapists have a right to vote while behind bars.
We at the Washington Times blasted this tendency to hide behind bizarrely brief opinions in the most controversial (and unpopular) of her decisions in this editorial. The problem is that litigants, lawyers, and the public cannot leave the courtroom understanding WHY a case was decided the way it was if the judge hides behind such brief explanations. On every level, this is an abdication of a judge's responsibility.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.