Sotomayor probably voted for Obama, too

SOTOMAYOR PROBABLY VOTED FOR OBAMA, TOO…. Now that Sonia Sotomayor’s responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questionnaire is online, the race is on to find something interesting. At the National Review, Ed Whelan notes a speech the judge delivered in April in which Sotomayor speaks favorably of the president. Whelan describes her comments as “disturbingly partisan” given her role on the bench.

“The power of working together was, this past November, resoundingly proven.” (p. 6)

“The wide coalition of groups that joined forces to elect America’s first Afro-American President was awe inspiring in both the passion the members of the coalition exhibited in their efforts and the discipline they showed in the execution of their goals.” (p. 7)

“On November 4, we saw past our ethnic, religious and gender differences.” (p. 10)

“What is our challenge today: Our challenge as lawyers and court related professionals and staff, as citizens of the world is to keep the spirit of the common joy we shared on November 4 alive in our everyday existence.” (p. 11)

“It is the message of service that President Obama is trying to trumpet and it is a clarion call we are obligated to heed.” (p. 13)

Whelan argues that Sotomayor casting the president’s election in a positive light “seems clearly” to violate the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, because it breaks with the appearance of “impartiality.”

This is a real stretch. For one thing, judges expressing some ideological predispositions are about as common as the sunrise. When a sitting jurist signs up for a Federalist Society gathering, or a conference hosted by the American Constitution Society, is he or she necessarily signaling bias? Indeed, as David Weigel noted, “[T]he conservatives on the court, such as Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, are common presences around D.C. conservative events.”

Indeed, Adam Serwer reminds us that Scalia and Cheney were not only hunting buddies — a relationship that might have cast doubt on Scalia’s impartiality — but “there was [also] the time that the conservative majority on the court unilaterally decided that the Republican candidate should be the next president of the United States.”

What’s more, looking at the specific quotes Whelan referenced, Sotomayor’s remarks seemed to address a sense of cultural and civic pride more than obvious partisanship. A lot of Americans, including more than a few Republicans, felt good about the American character in November 2008, and Sotomayor seemed to argue that we would be wise to hold onto that pride going forward.

A disqualifying set of remarks? Hardly. Keep trying, Ed.