Senate Democrats

Sotomayor: Association With PRLDEF Reflects Service To Community

Correcting The Record

Judge Sotomayor’s Association with PRLDEF Reflects Her Service to the Community, But She Played No Role in the Organization’s Legal Briefs

RHETORIC:  Today, Senator Graham suggested that the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) has taken extreme positions on many issues.

made clear today, as others connected with the organization have repeatedly, that she played no role in that organization’s legal positions or briefs.

Judge Sotomayor had no role in preparing briefs submitted by PRLDEF.

FACT:   Board members, as Judge Sotomayor was, are not involved in PRLDEF’s day-to-day litigation.  In fact, ABA Model Code 6.03 provides that Board members have no attorney-client relationship with the clients of a legal services organization and do not control the activities of staff lawyers in individual cases.

FACT:  She did not write, edit, or supervise the drafting of litigation materials when she was Chairperson of the Board’s Litigation Committee.  Instead, she was responsible for identifying training needs, administrative support, and staffing problems.  Her committee was supposed to help make sure the Fund could do its work, not to manage the content of that work.  Judge Sotomayor did not write, review, or approve legal briefs in her tenure as a PRLDEF board member.

PLRDEF is a mainstream civil rights organization with a long record of important accomplishments.

FACT:  PRDLEF works to combat discrimination and to empower minorities in a wide variety of arenas, from education to housing.  The bulk of its work involves such issues as mentoring young people of all backgrounds who want to enter the legal profession, fighting against housing discrimination in city-owned apartments, and seeking treatment for those addicted to cocaine and care for those suffering from HIV and AIDS.

FACT:  PRLDEF is similar to other widely respected Legal Defense Funds, like the NAACP LDF and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and its funding comes from well-known organizations like the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, as well as from mainstream corporations like Time Warner, IBM, and Campbell’s Soup.

PRLDEF is a non-partisan organization associated with prominent members of both parties.

FACT:  The PRLDEF board of directors over the years has included high-profile civic leaders of both parties such as former Republican U.S. Senator Jacob Javits; former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach; New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau; Second Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes; and former U.S. Congressman Herman Badillo, who is a Republican and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

The Hispanic community and independent observers have condemned as unfair the Republican attacks on PRLDEF.

FACT:  On July 6, 2009, 25 preeminent national Hispanic organizations wrote to Senator Sessions to express their “deep dismay” that he had mischaracterized the work of PRLDEF.  They described PRLDEF as a “strong and vibrant institution” whose work “serves not only the Latino community, but the nation as a whole because it advances the basic American principles of equal opportunity and equal access to justice for all in our society.”

FACT:  On July 2, 2009, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Independent, condemned recent attacks on Judge Sotomayor and described PRLDEF as “a respected civil rights organization” that “has made many important contributions to New York City.”

Justices Roberts and Alito were members of organizations that are more partisan and ideological.

REALITY:  According to media reports, both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that has played a prominent role in a wide variety of heated political battles.  Chief Justice Roberts was on the Legal Advisory Committee of the conservative National Legal Center for the Public Interest and a member of the partisan Republican National Lawyers Association, and Justice Alito was a member of the Concerned Alumni for Princeton, a controversial group formed to protest the admission into Princeton of women and an increasing number of minorities.