Senate Democrats

Sotomayor: Attacks On Judge Sotomayor’s Temperament Are Baseless

Correcting the Record

RHETORIC:  Today, Senator Graham suggested that Judge Sotomayor has a poor judicial temperament and suggested she may be a “bully” on the bench.

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR has demonstrated in this hearing her even and pleasant temperament in the face of difficult questioning.

The ABA’s unanimous “well qualified” rating is the best indicator of Judge Sotomayor’s temperament.

REALITY:  On July 7, 2009, the American Bar Association (ABA) announced that it had unanimously rated Judge Sotomayor “well qualified” for the Supreme Court – the ABA’s highest rating.  The ABA specifically considers judicial temperament and made its determination through a thorough, anonymous process, including hundreds of confidential interviews with those who have worked with and appeared before her.  Republican Senators have touted the ABA rating as a “comprehensive, exhaustive evaluation” that provides “valuable insight” and “ought to [be] trust[ed].”  (Senator Hatch [2005]; Senator Sessions [2006]; Senator Coburn [2006].)

Judge Sotomayor’s Second Circuit colleagues uniformly praise her temperament and collegiality.

REALITY:  Second Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, a Republican appointee, said to the New York Law Journal, “Sonia Sotomayor is a well-loved colleague on our court — everybody from every point of view knows that she is fair and decent in all her dealings. . . . The fact is, she is truly a superior human being. . . .”

REALITY:  Second Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi compared the substance and tone of Judge Sotomayor’s questions with those of the male judges on the Second Circuit after hearing that she was an aggressive judge.  He described the results of his study to National Public Radio this way:  “And I must say I found no difference at all.  So I concluded that all that was going on was that there were some male lawyers who couldn’t stand being questioned toughly by a woman. . . . It was sexism in its most obvious form.”

Criticism of Judge Sotomayor’s temperament is not backed up by the people who were there.

REALITY: Critics of Judge Sotomayor’s temperament have pointed to her rigorous questioning of the government attorney in Arar v. Ashcroft, an extraordinary rendition case that the Second Circuit heard en banc in 2008.  But the government attorney who was the subject of Judge Sotomayor’s questioning had no problem with it.  As he told The New York Times, “I thought her questions and demeanor were reasonable and fine.”

Critics are subjecting Judge Sotomayor to an unfair double standard.

REALITY:  Those who criticize Judge Sotomayor’s judicial temperament and aggressive questioning praise Justice Scalia for his aggressive questioning, calling him “no shrinking violet”  (Senator Graham to NPR [2009]), despite his well-known temper, and have never complained about Chief Justice Roberts, who, like a number of other male judges, is known for aggressive questioning.

  Justice Ginsburg noted to The New York Times the different standards to which male and female judges are held, saying, “Yes, the notion that Sonia is an aggressive questioner — what else is new?  Has anybody watched Scalia or Breyer up on the bench?”