May 28th, 2009
05:20 PM ET
4 years ago

In her own words: Sotomayor on judicial activism

Sonia Sotomayor in 1997 wrote about judicial activism.
Sonia Sotomayor in 1997 wrote about judicial activism.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor shared her views on judicial activism with members of the Senate during her two previous federal court confirmation hearings in 1992 and 1997.

A Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire from 1997 asked the judge to "discuss your views" in writing on judicial activism.

Her complete response to that question is available after the jump:

"At the time I was nominated as a district court judge, I answered this question as follows:

'Our Constitution vests the right to make and administer laws in the legislative and executive branches of our government. Judges impermissibly encroach upon that right by rendering decisions that loosen jurisdictional requirements outside of the scope of established precedents and by fashioning remedies aimed at including parties not before the court to resolve broad societal problems.

Judges must provide fair and meaningful remedies for violations of constitutional and statutory rights to the parties before a court. Doing so can, at times, affect broad classes of individuals, may place affirmative burdens on governments and society and may require some administrative oversight functions by a court.

A judge's decision should not, however, start from or look to these effects as an end result. Instead, because judicial power is limited by Article III of the Constitution, judges should seek only to resolve the specific grievance, ripe for resolution, of the parties before the court and within the law as written and interpreted in precedents. Intrusion by a judge upon the functions of the other branches of government should only be done as a last resort and limitedly.'

My service as a judge has only reinforced the importance of these principles. Finding and maintaining a proper balance in protecting the constitutional and statutory rights of individuals versus protecting the interest of government, financial and otherwise, is very difficult. Judges must be extraordinarily sensitive to the impact of their decisions and function within, and respectful of, the constraints of the Constitution."


Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Teleprompter of the U.S.A.

    You talk a good game now, but you didn't when a SC nomination was on the line. Hmmm.

    May 28, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Before you right wing nuts start screaming "legislation from the bench," she said "Intrusion by a judge upon the functions of the other branches of government should only be done as a last resort and limitedly.'

    May 28, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  3. Steph

    This was back in 1997...however, I believe she still feels this way now! She is qualified and has already answered all of the questions you have about her empathy, the role of a judge, etc... She has such an extensive record that the Republicans want to delay her confirmation hearing so they have time to look over all of it. Where is that speed-reader when we need him!

    Let the confirmation hearings begin because I can't take an entire summer of baseless attacks by the right wing crazies!

    May 28, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  4. Write makes right

    Teleprompter of the U.S.A." says, "You talk a good game now, but you didn't when a SC nomination was on the line. "

    The article starts, "A Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire from 1997..."

    Those obnoxious facts, always obscuring a good slander.

    May 28, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  5. Nestor, Austin, TX

    I agree with TOTUS.

    May 28, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  6. Come on CNN

    Nice try with this one. This was a well crafted response written by a team of people advising her so that she could move through the appointment process.

    This statement you have posted here stands in stark contrast to the unchecked, honest response that came from her own lips when she said that she believes the courts should create public policy.

    As for me and my house, I'll choose to believe what she said with her own lips as opposed to what someone else wrote for her.

    May 28, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  7. Andrew

    Yea... that totally sounds like a judicial activist to me.

    /end sarcasm.

    May 28, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  8. Teleprompter of the U.S.A.

    "Before you right wing nuts start screaming "legislation from the bench," she said "Intrusion by a judge upon the functions of the other branches of government should only be done as a last resort and limitedly.'"

    It shouldn't be done at all. That's not the purpose of judges. They are not supposed to legislate from the bench. Period. If they do, there is no check on their power.

    Please go read up on civics. Only a left wing nut would be OK with her legislating from the bench.

    May 28, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. Teleprompter of the U.S.A.

    "Those obnoxious facts, always obscuring a good slander."

    Well, regardless of when she filled out the questionnaire, it goes completely against what she has said in videos of her. So, I'm not far off of what she believes in substance or form.

    May 28, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  10. Devon Cloud

    I am sure you republicans are gonna jump all over this and scream "legislation from the bench". guess what, we dont care. You have lost your voice in congress.. you are close to powerless. That is because after 8 years of a republican president and more than ten years of republican control of the house and senate, America has found your points of view pretty much suck. She will get the nomination despite everyone's uproar concerning her "racist" comment.. which was not racist at all (coming from a white man). She simply stated that she, with all her experience, would have much better judgement and could do a better job than a white male without that experience.

    May 28, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. Hmmmmm

    Judicial activism is a hackneyed term for "I am afraid of what this jurist might do". It is typically applied by staunch conservatives in an attempt to frame a jurist as a liberal. The assumption is that the jurist will be "legislating from the bench" and "changing the constitution" . It cuts both ways. A constitutional amendment against ...let's see... flag burning...abortion...gay marriage...nope no judicial activism there.

    May 28, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. Fair is Fair

    Dutch, the limit of the SCOTUS is to adjudicate cases based on constitutional law and/or strike down a law deemed to be unconstitutional. That's it. Anything over and above that is infringement on the legislative or executive branch, or both. Period.

    May 28, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  13. James M. Holmes

    "Judical Activist" is NeoCon for anyone who isn't a right-wing nut in the vain of Scalia or Thomas, who are the biggest "judical activists" EVER... but that is OK with the sheep in the GOP because they promote the "right" kind of judical activism...

    Truth is though, I am loving all the crazy, racist, sexist attacks on Sotomayer... looks like the GOP is playing right into Obama's hands again!

    America will watch the GOP try to trash one of the most qualified (notice these nuts NEVER attack her resume) and historic picks in a generation and when they are done, Hispanics by and large will never vote Republican again!

    Please keep killing yourself with blind hatred Republicans... I guess you all never read "Moby Dick" huh? haha...

    May 28, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  14. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Fair is Fair from an earlier post:

    Being out for the day, I wasn't able to reply to your earlier message on another post. Just wanted to confirm to you that I agree with your comments about Israel and Palestine. . .

    May 28, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. phoenix86

    Dear Devon Cloud,

    We know that you don't care. You're to ignorant to see the noose going around your neck.

    May 28, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. Marc

    Teleprompter... Read it again, 'SHOULD only be done as a LAST resort and limitedly.' Or in other words, ONLY IF there's no other option!
    There are exceptional circumstances that MAY give the right to a power to invade the prerrogatives of another power, attention I said 'MAY', and with boundaries very well established, and of course those who disagree with that intrusion/invasion have all the right to try to undo such acts.

    May 28, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  17. Lowell

    "Intrusion by a judge upon the functions of the other branches of government should only be done as a last resort and limitedly.'"

    Hmmm... But Bush's judges routinely intruded upon the functions of other branches of government with the blessing of the White House.

    So what she believes is the opposite of the Bush regime.

    That's a good thing.

    May 28, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  18. RRR

    It is funny how the words 'judicial activism' only springs from the mouths of those who don't agree with the nomination......how did the right wingers feel when Roberts was nominated? From what I remember he promised Roe vs Wade would be overturned.....isn't THAT activism?

    May 28, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. Teleprompter of the U.S.A.

    "Judicial activism is a hackneyed term for "I am afraid of what this jurist might do". It is typically applied by staunch conservatives in an attempt to frame a jurist as a liberal. The assumption is that the jurist will be "legislating from the bench" and "changing the constitution" . It cuts both ways. A constitutional amendment against …let's see… flag burning…abortion…gay marriage…nope no judicial activism there."

    What do we call it when liberals bring out their attack dogs on conservative judges. Well, I don't know what it was called before being "Borked", but that is what it is called now.

    LOL!!! You call a Constitutional amendment "judicial activism"??? Have you ever taken a civics class?????

    May 28, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  20. phoenix86

    Interesting that a SC judge should be concerned about protecting the government from the people. Obama's big government fans must be beaming.

    May 28, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  21. Brandon - Charlotte, NC

    Activist Judges = Immediate and unquestioned disqualification from the post indicated.

    If we start legislating from the bench in contravention of over 200 years of precedent our whole system of gov't comes down...

    Did anyone stop to think that this may be nothing more than a means to an end?

    And if you're calling anyone a "left wing" or "right wing" nut job, I recommend you put the campaign propaganda down and try thinking for a "change".

    May 28, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  22. Tom Paine

    Anyone want to take up the mantle that Brown v. Board of Ed was judicial activism? Because it was. Meanwhile, Dred Scott was a solid decision from the so-called strict constructionist standpoint. Miranda v. Arizona? Forget it – judicial activism. See the pattern?

    Scream all you want – the judicial branch is a coequal branch, and checks both executive and legislative power. If SCOTUS thinks a law is unconstitutional, it can void said law, and its remedial powers are about the same as lower courts, meaning on occasion the court will create precedent that will, as Sotomayor said, place an affirmative burden on government or others. As it is now, as it always has been. God bless America (no sarcasm).

    Let the rant fest begin!

    May 28, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  23. Teleprompter of the U.S.A.

    ""Judical Activist" is NeoCon for anyone who isn't a right-wing nut in the vain of Scalia or Thomas, who are the biggest "judical activists" EVER… but that is OK with the sheep in the GOP because they promote the "right" kind of judical activism…"

    Um, you might not agree with what they do, but it isn't legislating from the bench.

    You seem like another who needs to read a book on civics.

    May 28, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  24. Pegwin

    The absolute worst case of judicial activism EVER occurred when the supreme court took on Bush v. Gore. How dare the republicants complain about President Obama's choice. Their hypocrisy knows absolutely no limits.

    May 28, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  25. HB

    "Intrusion by a judge upon the functions of the other branches of government should only be done as a last resort and limitedly."

    Question to the folks complaining about this statement:

    If one branch is clearly out of line, wouldn't it be the responsibility of the other two to intervene/intrude?

    May 28, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
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