Princeton provost: Pointless for GOP to fight Sotomayor appointment

John O'Brien Jul. 23, 2009, 1:36pm



WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - At this point in the process, any Senate Republican who opposes Sonia Sotomayor's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court does so at his or her own risk, an observor said.

Princeton University provost Chris Eisgruber said Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, held up nicely under the pressure of questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and seems certain to be appointed to replace retired Justice David Souter.

Eisgruber, author of "The Next Justice: Reparing the Supreme Court Appointments Process," said it wouldn't be wise for the GOP to stand in the way of Sotomayor, nominated in May by President Barack Obama.

"The Republicans have nothing to gain by rallying against the nominee," Eisgruber said. "They do not have the votes to defeat her and attacking her would jeopardize their standing with Hispanic voters."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Minority Whip John Kyl of Arizona have said they will vote against Sotomayor. Democrats hold a 60-40 advantage in the Senate.

The Web site of Senate Republicans shows a press release from Thursday that says Sotomayor's testimony contained inconsistencies.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, though, said he will gladly vote for Sotomayor.when the time comes.

"Her jurisprudence has been, as Sen. Graham observed during the hearings, moderately liberal -- which means the Republicans would gain nothing by voting against her since any other Obama nominee would also be at least moderately liberal," Eisgruber said.

White firefighters who felt the City of New Haven, Conn., racially discriminated against them testified against Sotomayor at the hearings. She had sided with the City when the case came before her, but the firefighters were successful in their next appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Eisgruber said having one of her decisions reversed during the appointments process does not hurt her as much as one would think.

"The Supreme Court operates according to a different set of rules than the Second Circuit," he said. "For example, it is not bound by Second Circuit precedent and it is free to reconsider its own precedent. Judge Sotomayor may have been quite right as a matter of Second Circuit law."

Senators also asked about a comment Sotomayor made years ago at a lecture at the University of California - "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said at the lecture.

"Judge Sotomayor handled the questions well, including with regard to the 'wise latina' comment," Eisgruber said. "She kept her cool, maintained her impartiality and gave a plausible explanation why she had made the comment."

Sotomayor said she was merely encouraging the latino students she lectures to let their life experiences help enrich the legal system, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

"At this point, her confirmation seems assured," Eisgruber said. "Her odds were pretty good from the start.

"She was the nominee of a popular president whose party commands a sizable majority in the Senate. No bombshells dropped during her hearings, and it is hard to imagine why she would not be confirmed."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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