Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, has served for 11 years on the United States Court of the Appeals for the Second Circuit, which is one of the most important of the federal appellate courts. The Second Circuit’s jurisdiction includes New York City, and for that reason many of the most important cases involving securities laws, the operations of the markets, and other corporate and business activities come to the Second Circuit.
I see that some people already are highly critical of Judge Sotomayor, based in part on comments she has made in commencement addresses and other speeches. Stray comments made in the course of speeches seem like a poor basis on which to decide whether someone is suited to the nation’s highest court. I suggest, instead, that people read the opinions that Judge Sotomayor authored in her 11 years on the Second Circuit (and, before then, on the federal district court bench). Those opinions will provide lots of information about Judge Sotomayor’s analytical abilities, writing skills, and perspective on many different legal issues. An old rule of law states that a court speaks through its opinions and journal entries. Anyone assessing whether Judge Sotomayor merits elevation to the Supreme Court should start there, and withhold judgment until they have completed a careful review of her actual judicial work product.