Sessions Will Vote Against Sotomayor

By Kevin Fayle on July 27, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Who didn't see this one coming?

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 of support.

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.

Look, 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.

It 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.
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