Last week, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took time out from a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camps to use Twitter to call Judge Sonia Sotomayor a racist. Fortunately for human civilization, there is more to the internet than Twitter. Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSBlog crunched the numbers around Sotomayor’s past cases dealing with race. The facts deal a serious blow to Gingrich’s 340 characters.
In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.) She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.
For those interested, Goldstein also looks at her rulings and opinions on abortion. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald digs into a dissent which Sotomayor wrote in the 2002 case of Pappas v. Giuliani, in which she ruled in favor of a white racist NYPD employee on First Amendment grounds. Says Greenwald,
Sotomayor’s dissent ought to put an end to the obnoxious and inflammatory claim that she has a "race-based" approach to the law whereby she ignores legal principles in order to rule against white males and in favor of racial minorities. Anyone continuing to make that claim should be confronted with Goldstein’s statistics and her dissent in the Pappas case.
I like to think that Newt could have dug a little deeper into the subtleties of this issue, had his medium of choice allowed him 171 characters per missive — but frankly, the whole situation is pretty easy to summarize. Observe:
@newtgingrich Sotomayor’s record values rule of law, not deceitful race politics. How about yours? http://tr.im/n4DM
Re-tweet it if you’re on Twitter, or come up with your own Twitter-friendly version and post it in the comments. No need to wait for your next tour of WWII atrocities.