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Obama's Supreme Court Nominee: It's Sonia Sotomayor

Nominee has a troubling First Amendment record, despite other qualifications

Obama's Supreme Court Nominee: It's Sonia Sotomayor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama announced this morning his nominee to replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court: (Female) (Hispanic) Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

"During her tenure on the district court, she presided over roughly 450 cases," noted Obama in announcing the judge's nomination. "One case in particular involved a matter of enormous concern to many Americans, including me: the baseball strike of 1994 and '95. In a decision that reportedly took her just 15 minutes to announce — a swiftness much appreciated by baseball fans everywhere — she issued an injunction that helped end the strike. Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball."

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Sadly, that was the only case Obama cited in his effusive praise for the judge, cocnentrating more on her background as a poor diabetic Hispanic whose father died when she was nine years old. He did note, however, that she had been "a distinguished graduate of two of America's leading universities. She's been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. She spend six years as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and would replace Justice Souter as the only justice with experience as a trial judge — a perspective that would enrich the judgments of the court."

AVN reported on one free speech case in which she had been involved: Doninger v. Neihoff and Schwartz, which permitted public school officials to retaliate against a student who exercised her First Amendment right to petition her "government" for redress of grievances.

First Amendment attorney and AVN columnist Clyde DeWitt has noted that she prosecuted child pornography cases while serving as an Assistant District Attorney in New York City from 1979-'84, "during which time the seminal child porn case New York v. Ferber was decided and while Eighth Avenue was a hotbed of runaways and child abuse," he explained. "She apparently has never defended criminal cases."

He also noted that Sotomayor, a Clinton appointee to the Second Circuit, handed down a good opinion (later reversed) in U.S. v. Quattrone, in which journalists and media organizations appealed an order of the Southern District of New York that prevented them from publishing of names of jurors disclosed in open court during the course of a trial. Sotomayor said in her opinion that the court's order was a prior restraint on speech and infringed upon the freedom of press to publish information disclosed in an open courtroom.

On the other hand, Sotomayor ruled against the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in its lawsuit against the Bush administration's invocation of the "Mexico City Policy," originally instituted by Ronald Reagan, which prohibited international advocacy groups that received U.S. funds from using any of the money to perform or promote abortions. The Center had argued that the policy violated their First Amendment rights to free speech, as well as their due process and equal protection rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. In her ruling on the equal protection claim — she avoided ruling on the underlying abortion issue altogether — Sotomayor wrote, "The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds."

Check back later for more on this breaking story.






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Mark Kernes

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