The Supreme Court Nominee Who Can’t Write
By: Carey Roberts
Supreme Court opinions are words for the generations that can affect the lives and welfare of millions. No one doubts that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has a compelling life story. But more to the point, we need to inquire about her aptitude to draft thoughtfully-reasoned, well-crafted legal opinions.
On this count, there is reason for worry.
Sotomayor herself has admitted, â€œWriting remains a challenge for me even todayâ€¦I am not a natural writer.â€ Reporter Stephanie Mencimer has characterized Sotomayorâ€™s legal opinions as â€œgood punishment for law students who show up late for class.â€
A cursory pass of Sotomayorâ€™s writings reveals them to be clumsy to the point of being impenetrable. This comes from her â€œwise Latinaâ€ speech: â€œI also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation.â€
So exactly what does â€œstart your own evaluationâ€ mean?
And this ringing â€“ but ungrammatical — declamation: â€œOther simply do not care.â€ Maybe itâ€™s acceptable to drop the final â€˜sâ€™ in Spanish, but not in English.
Then there’s the time Sotomayor referred to a chirping insect as â€œJimmy the Cricketâ€ â€“ with no apologies to â€œJiminy Cricket.â€ That malapropism triggered a summer reading assignment for the future Supreme Court nominee to immerse herself in a round of childrenâ€™s classics.
When it comes to Spanish grammar, Sotomayor doesnâ€™t have a clue. In a 1996 speech she uttered this blooper, â€œin Spanish we do not have adjectives. A noun is described with a preposition.â€
There is in fact a good Spanish adjective for such an off-key statement: â€œabsurdo.â€
(For the compulsive linguists in the room, Sotomayorâ€™s name comes from a combination of the words soto (â€œthicketâ€) and mayor (â€œgreaterâ€). Mayor is the adjective that modifies the noun soto. So Sotomayor means â€œgreater thicket.â€)
Most telling is a personâ€™s ability to think analytically and reason logically, as revealed in a juristâ€™s ability to write well. Here again, Sotomayorâ€™s nomination raises eyebrows.
Ms. Sotomayor has asserted her Latino heritage makes her a better, â€œwiserâ€ judge. So see if you can follow this obtuse legal argument:
â€œFor me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and porkâ€¦.My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, — pig intestines — patitas de cerdo con garbanzo â€“ pigsâ€™ feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigsâ€™ tongue and ears.â€
So letâ€™s get the word out to our nationâ€™s jurists, Consuming swine guts makes you a more discerning and compassionate judge!
And when Sotomayor was asked to defend her membership in the all-female Belizean Grove, she rendered this risible verdict: â€œto the best of my knowledge, a man has never been asked to be considered for membership.â€
In a 1986 interview on Good Morning America, Sotomayor railed against the sex discrimination she allegedly had encountered. Want proof? â€œAnd if youâ€™re a male that grew up professionally in a male-dominated profession, then your image of what a good lawyer is a male image.â€
Thatâ€™s right, discrimination has nothing to do with the actions you may commit, itâ€™s clinging to a politically-incorrect â€œmale image.â€
The real problem, of course, has nothing to do with oneâ€™s image of being a good lawyer. The concern is the extent to which the affirmative action mindset has permeated our society, watering down standards and discriminating against more qualified applicants. â€œI am a product of affirmative action,â€ Sonia Sotomayor boasted in a 1994 interview. â€œI am the perfect affirmative action baby.â€
During her now-famous address at the University of California School of Law, Judge Sotomayor concluded in her rambling, nearly incoherent prose:
â€œThere is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering. We, I mean all of us in this room, must continue individually and in voices united in organizations that have supported this conference, to think about these questions and to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making.â€
If the Senate confirms Sonia Sotomayor next month, it will be only a matter of time until such sentiments begin to make their way into the legal opinions handed down from the High Court.