Biden to Cops: Sotomayor ‘Has Your Back’

Vice President Joe Biden has a bit of a mouth problem, he just can’t shut it, and whatever he thinks tends to come tumbling out. In this case, while speaking before a Law Enforcement group Vice President Biden told the cops present that “Sotomayor has your back”.

Vice President Joe Biden may have crossed the line when he assured national law enforcement groups Monday that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor “has your back.”

The remark quickly stirred criticism in the legal world, since Biden was making a pledge that a fair and objective justice would not necessarily be able to keep.

Biden made the remark at an assembly of eight law enforcement groups after he detailed Sotomayor’s tough-on-crime record in the courtroom.

“There’s a part of her record that seems to be, up to now, been flying under the radar a bit. And that’s her tough stance on criminals and her unyielding commitment to finding justice for the victims of crime,” Biden said.

He then repeatedly said, “She gets it,” and sought to assure the law enforcement groups that she would be on their side.

“So you all are on the front lines. But as you do your job, know that Judge Sotomayor has your back as well,” Biden said. “And throughout this nomination process, I know you’ll have her back.”

In other words, Biden is blabbering on that Sotomayor will go into cases involving the police and civil liberties with a bias in favor of the police. And this is supposed to be a guy from the liberal party?

The problem is that a truly objective judge should go into all cases without a preference for either side. Now the question is, is Biden just shooting his mouth off like a boob, or is he basing this on something? If it is the latter then Sotomayor may not be such a good candidate.

Here is another case where Sotomayor signed on to put procedure ahead of a man’s innocence. Her decision helped ensure that an innocent man spent another 6 years in prison.

Jeffrey Deskovic heard a TV talk show host announce President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court last month, and his mind raced. That name; he remembered that name.

He emerged from bed and riffled through the boxes of motions, appeals and letters he had accumulated in the 16 years he spent in a New York prison for a rape and murder he did not commit.

And there it was, a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, dated April 26, 2000, and barely two pages long. It was co-written by Sonia Sotomayor.

“We have considered all of petitioner-appellant’s arguments and find them to be without merit,” the ruling said.

Imprisoned at the age of 16 for the killing of a high school classmate, Mr. Deskovic, now 35, filed a habeas corpus petition in 1997 in Federal District Court contesting his conviction. The court denied the request because the paperwork had arrived four days late. Mr. Deskovic and one of his lawyers — who he said had been misinformed about the deadline for filing — appealed the decision to the federal appellate court on which Ms. Sotomayor sat.

Ms. Sotomayor, along with the other judge on the panel, ruled that the lawyer’s mistake did not “rise to the level of an extraordinary circumstance” that would compel them to forgive the delay. There was no need to look at the evidence that Mr. Deskovic insisted would affirm his innocence, they said.

Mr. Deskovic spent six more years behind bars, until DNA found in the victim not only cleared him, but connected another man to the crime.

And this article in the L.A. Times is not encouraging either.

In 1999, Sotomayor upheld the crack cocaine conviction of a New York man despite what she called a “mistaken arrest.” Last year, Sotomayor spoke for a 2-1 majority that upheld a man’s child pornography conviction, even though she agreed an FBI agent did not have probable cause to search his computer.

“I think her experience as a prosecutor balances out her liberal tendencies,” said New York University law professor Kenji Yoshino.

[…]

Gerald Lefcourt, a high- profile criminal defense lawyer in New York, appeared before Sotomayor while she was a federal district court judge. “She always seemed to be leaning toward the government — not outrageously so, but if you look at a lot of her criminal law cases you can see she’s pretty conservative,” he said.

Lefcourt wasn’t surprised. He had faced off against Sotomayor when she was an assistant district attorney.

Sotomayor was “very police-like,” he said. “Dismissive of what the defendant had to say about anything.”

I have to say, it seems like Biden isn’t just shooting his mouth off here. Sotomayor does seem to have a bias in favor of law enforcement.

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Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    I’m waiting for the more conservative commenters to tell us why this disqualifies Sotomayor from sitting on the Court.

  2. steve says:

    But she was declared the most liberal judge in the country by the right wing talkers. Something must be wrong here.

    More seriously, if you look at her record, now there’s an idea, you see a left leaning judge who respects precedent, and does not overturn cases without due cause. She has made a number of decisions that one would not expect a liberal to make. TBH, she seems like about the best possible pick one could expect from Obama if you are on the right.

    Steve

  3. Steve Plunk says:

    I would say her bias is for the state. That would make her supportive of law enforcement in most instances and still keep her liberal credentials intact. No, it doesn’t disqualify her but when considering a new justice we all have the right to examine case history, legal leaning and biases, and temperament. I see no disqualifying traits so far.

    From a conservative viewpoint I also see her as a weak legal mind not likely to have influence on the other justices. The reviews she has received support that claim. Knowing that, I see her as a benign presence on the court and more acceptable to conservatives.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    But she was declared the most liberal judge in the country by the right wing talkers. Something must be wrong here.

    More seriously, if you look at her record, now there’s an idea, you see a left leaning judge who respects precedent, and does not overturn cases without due cause. She has made a number of decisions that one would not expect a liberal to make. TBH, she seems like about the best possible pick one could expect from Obama if you are on the right.

    I’m not on the Right. No. Really.

    Steve P.,

    Yes, she is a fan of the state, in her own way an authoritarian.

  5. sam says:

    How then would the two Steves characterize the majority in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.? Statist, authoritarian? That case, as was the Deskovic case, was decided on purely procedural grounds (and prompted Congress to override via legislation). Just asking.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Sam,

    When a person’s very freedom is at stake I’d hope the court might be a bit more lenient in terms of procedure, especially regarding filing dates. When it comes to pay and compensation, frankly I’m going to be less sympathetic. You aren’t going to get shanked in the yard becuase your pay was substandard wether for good reason or not. To tell a person you have to sit in prison for an unknown number of years simply because your attorney blew a filing deadline is…well, bordering on evil, IMO. It strikes as damn little difference with what is going on down in Guantanamo.

    As a general point, I’m not a big fan of the government getting involved in pay disputes.

  7. sam says:

    I’ll not disagree with your point in general. However, you didn’t answer my question. I’ll repeat it, how would you characterize the majority in Ledbetter, recalling that they decided the issue on procedural grounds? Are they statist and/or authoritarian in your opinion? And note that I’m not asking anything about the wisdom or rightness of anti-discrimination laws.