Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (R-AL), the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced his opposition to Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the US Supreme Court in an opinion piece in USA Today.
In the editorial, Sessions doubted Sotomayor's sincerity when she stated her dedication to precedent, repeating the "two Sonias" mantra that Republican senators have been chanting for weeks. He also pointed to three of her controversial decisions that he claimed
demonstrated bias and a liberal agenda as another reason for his lack
But it was the subtext of the article that revealed
Sessions' true message. He ended his announcement with the following
line: "As someone who cares deeply about our great heritage of law, I
must withhold my consent."
The use of the word "heritage" can
be taken two ways here. First, it could refer to the discussions about
Sotomayor's Latina heritage, which would make it a bold statement from
a senator who saw his own judicial nomination blocked over allegations of racial insensitivity.
Taken this way, Sessions is stating to his followers that, like most of
them, he doesn't feel that Sotomayor belongs, that her heritage runs
contrary to the traditional American (read:white and conservative)
heritage of law.
It could also be the case, though, that
Sessions was referring to the GOP's perception of judicial activism in
some of Sotomayor's decision as the real threat to our legal heritage.
If this is the case, it is a blatant hypocrisy. When Sessions, along
with other conservatives, decries judicial activism, he is really
decrying liberal shifts in the law and not judicial activism per se.
In fact, the conservative movement has encouraged, even required,
judicial activism in order to gain their support. That's how we've
ended up with Justice Clarence Thomas, an ultra-conservative activist
justice who would be more than happy to overturn a century's worth of
law in order to return the US to a time when public disembowlements
were an accepted form of punishment.
The conservatives want judicial activism, they need it, in fact their whole approach to the federal judiciary is based
on it. They just don't want the door to swing both ways. Which is
fair, honestly - Democrats don't want conservative activists either,
and routinely blocked the appointments of many Bush nominees.
frankly everyone knows that the Supreme Court does more than just
interpret the law or apply old precedent to new problems. They do both
of those things, of course, but when the Court weighs the facts and law
of a case, there is always a political consideration involved.
would be helpful for the American public and the judiciary if the
discourse could honestly address that fact instead of sidestepping the
issue with a collection of codewords and rhetorical obfuscations.