May 28th, 2009
05:20 PM ET
9 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. Sniffit's like you GOPers didn't read what she said. Have fun watching her get confirmed with or without you, you whining, mendacious pantwetters.

    May 28, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. Clifford in New York

    Pegwin May 28th, 2009 5:50 pm ET

    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.

    At least they followed the LAW !!

    May 28, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  3. proud army navy mom

    A judge's decision should not, however, start from or look to these effects as an end

    It is too bad that idiot and friend of war criminial, Judge Scalia, didn't read these notes before he illegally handed george w the presidency in 2000.

    Just think what a better world this would be with the bush thug legacy,

    May 28, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  4. No Incumbents 2010

    That's not quite what she said on YouTube.

    May 28, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  5. DaBird

    She supports LaRaza who supports breaking the law and illegal immigration. LaRaza is the NAACP for Hispanics. She'll be confirmed, and then let's see if she continues to support breaking the law. HYPOCRITE

    May 28, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  6. Peter (CA)


    Are you kidding me?
    Newt called her a "reverse racist". THAT is what he needs to be careful about.
    And he should. I would have thought only someone as arrogant and as much of a racist as Limbaugh would come up with something that stupid.

    May 28, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  7. Crany

    Everyone is in a tissy about a comment made at UC Berkeley – I’m sure the audience screamed with approval since everyone at UC Berkeley knows that white males are inherently evil and have bad intentions. All kidding aside, the issue that will pose a political problem is not going to be the comment itself- it will be the comment itself in the context of the New Haven Fire Department decision she issued which is presently up for Supreme Court review.
    In this matter, the City of New Haven decided to promote none of the firefighters who passed the promotion test because no African Americans passed. The white firefighters who did pass the test and were scheduled for promotion sued, saying correctly that they were being discriminated based on race. New Haven has admitted that if they were Black or if a Black firefighter passed the test, these white firefighters would have been promoted. The litmus test she is going to face as a Latina activist is her decision that whites do not have equal protection under anti-discrimination laws. In other words, according to Sotomayer’s activist opinion is that employers can discriminate against white males on the basis of their race and gender, but cannot discriminate against women, older workers, and minorities. Given the state of the economy, white males may not support a judicial candidate that has these beliefs.

    May 28, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  8. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    This RACIST woman is not worthy of being seated on the Supreme Court.

    May 28, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  9. Neilz

    The woman is, simply, the most qualified jurist to be nominated to the High Court in 40 years. Cherry picking statements from speeches and deliberately misrepresenting them is slander. Characterization as a "racist" is defamation. The longer the wheezing remnants of the Republican Party choose to act like imbeciles, the more potential Hispanic voters are lost. And in case you didn't get the memo, the Republicans need voters, not bigots. The Republican Party has got just about enough bigots.

    May 28, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  10. Pragmatic

    "Sotomayor is being perpared for her hearings — which is DC speak for DO not tell the truth under any circumstance...."

    I guess that applies to Roberts, Scalia, Alito and the whole republican branch of the Supreme Court? Trouble with being silly is that when you make foolish remarks ... smarter people with longer memories are there to point out the hypocrisy.

    As for legislating from the bench, the conservative just knocked down a long standing law about people being arrested having lawyers present during questioning; The dissent pointed out that these conservatives, making law from the bench, just trashed the 6th Amendment ...

    May 28, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  11. Liberal Democrats are Pathetic

    @Deb n Texas

    And I laugh at you and every other Dumbocrat who calls Republicans hateful, knowing that the last 8 years were full of hate from you dimwits. Even after you win, you still aren't nice, and are still angry and full of hate. It is sad that you liberals cannot be happy.

    May 28, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  12. Squirt

    9 out of 38 "Comments" have been made by "Teleprompter of the U.S.A." While I think we should all have a say, should one person have ALL the say on a given topic—especially when the responses tend to be snide and sort of sacrcastic?? I would like to this a "Comments" area or is it the personal blog of "Teleprompter of the U.S.A."? If he/she wants to hog the comments, why does he/she not start a blog of his/her own????

    May 28, 2009 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  13. Richard

    First let me assure you you all that I have taken a civics class, and fully understand the balance of power among the three branches of government.

    "Judicial activism" is a cleverly coined phrase that describes a court, any court really, whose decisions are contrary to one's own personal beliefs. As an old time University of Georgia football loyalist, I thank the good Lord every day for that wonderful California Republican judicial activist Earl Warren . Without him and the activists on the court in the 60's and 70's that marvelous athelete Herschel Walker would never have found his way to Athens and the 1980 national championships would have never occured.

    Public education, universal suffrage, religious freedom, privacy rights, abortion rights etc are all largely due to the wise and noble activist judge. Signed: A happy and loyal Progressive

    May 28, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  14. Hey BIG Spender

    This is not what she said in the audio of her speech. Why not link that CNn? She joked that legislation does happen from the bench, "let's face it"

    May 28, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  15. Reformed Republican

    You know what's scary? Some of the moronic, uneducated, misinformed comments being made regarding what is civics, activist judges and the less than rudementy understanding of what our courts do. Remember, the people making these ignorant comments VOTE!
    No wonder our government is so screwed up right now – We're only getting the competency level in our politicians that matches the competency of those that elected them!

    May 28, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  16. Edward

    Had she been Caucasian you bet your bottom dollar that the media would be covering the firefighter story 24/7, that’s racism for you. Democrats care about race just as much as Republicans do, they just discriminate in a different fashion and hope that no one will notice. I am an Independent and a proud one at that because even though I lean to the left on most issues, it’s obvious that both sides are far too radical for any fair minded person who really does want FAIRNESS for all and a society in which people are judged based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin … hypocrites.

    May 28, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  17. Edward

    Those who say that only Caucasians passed the test when trying to give their ridiculous argument legitimacy are lying … both Hispanic and African American Firefighters passed the exam and they too were DENIED PROMOTIONS because not enough minorities passed the test. It’s sad that we deny qualified people who earned their share promotions because too many of them happen to not be a minority. If you claim to be opposed to racism but support policies like this then I have news for you, you are a closet racist. I thought that we as a society were opposed to racism yet Sotomayor voted in favor of this obvious case of discrimination.

    May 28, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  18. Edward

    Had a Republican President nominated someone who made a decision like that after openly stating that she feels she is better qualified to make decisions than a Caucasian male based on her life experience (the same people that she ruled against) the Democrats would be all over it. It seems that the left though saying one thing regarding race actually practice another. Before any assumptions are made NO I am not a Republican or conservative, and NO Republicans aren’t the only ones who find something wrong with discrimination against certain groups of people because of a ridiculous agenda that pushes equality at all costs, rather than FAIRNESS. We want and already have, in my opinion, a fair playing field for all regardless of economic status … this is evidenced by both Obama and Sotomayor’s success. The problem is not that the playing field is uneven but rather that people simply aren’t willing to work hard enough and take responsibility for themselves. The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one, you don’t solve your problems by blaming other people. So you failed a test and you blame the test for being racist and deny hard working individuals the promotion that they earned?

    May 28, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  19. Edward

    Why are certain people allowed to make decisions based on race yet feel that somehow the same cannot be done to them? For example the firefighters in CT were openly discriminated against and Sotomayor voted in favor of this discrimination but somehow the media sees nothing wrong with it because the victims where not minorities or rather because the victims were Caucasian.

    May 28, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  20. slara1961

    I want to know what the Pro-Choicers think about Soto. I want CNN to interview the Pro-Choice leaders and get them on tape of what THEY think. One of the President's close advisor's came from Emily's List...What do SHE say about it? Let's not focus so much on what Rush and Newt say about Soto...I want to know what the Pro-Choice leaders think...and I hope CNN interviews them!

    Scott Lara

    May 28, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  21. The Truth

    OK here's what's going on folks. A liberal president (THE most liberal ever-that's pretty undebatable.) wants a liberal judge. Why? To make liberal decisions on the bench. She WILL make liberal decisions period. Yes she'll allow flag burning, abortion, discrimination of white males as in the fire dept case, etc and so forth. That's activism. She's there to act on, act out, activate liberal policy and the sad thing? That she doesn't even try and hide her liberalism disguised as 'life experience' and so-called 'empathy' and the lemmings shout against The Truth. The truth about patriotism (why we shouldn't burn flags), the truth about life (It DOES begin at conception-duh!), the truth about discrimination (birds of a feather have been flocking together for a long time and only a higher principle of thought can rescue us from our natural tendencies to exclude others not like ourselves). We need the truth.

    May 28, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  22. Angie

    who cares what they say. they are just throwing another tantum. they are so bitter, they can't help themselves. they are still the party of NO. no change, no solutions and no suggestions. LOSERS. they have sunk so low to call her really rude and insulting names. rush,beck and the rest. SAD, SAD, SAD!!!

    May 28, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  23. Tone

    Did TelePrompTer of the USA learn a new world. "Civics" . Guys the easy way to tell when a Republican has listened to too much Limbaugh and Hannity is when they speak in talking point language instead of concise debate speak. I'm disappointed that some of you liberals haven't challenged him on his obviously shallow arguments. C'mon guys. Also, don't resort o name calling... it makes you no better then them.

    May 28, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  24. annie for Palin

    I find this nomination to be a cover-up so obama doesn't have to address really important issues like North Korea. Guess he is waiting for georgie sorea@@ to fill in his teleprompter on what to say about North Korea. Our play acting prez doesn't seem to have any trouble telling our allies (Israel) what they can or cannot do,but he is a total wash-out when it comes to real problems.

    May 28, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  25. PhillyNERus

    It is always interesting to see these leftwing nuts on this board...with a distinct type of mental disorder...quite a fascinating study.

    May 28, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
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