Judicial Watch • Judicial Watch Raises Ethics Concerns about Judge Sotomayor

Judicial Watch Raises Ethics Concerns about Judge Sotomayor

Judicial Watch Raises Ethics Concerns about Judge Sotomayor

JULY 08, 2009

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it sent a letter of complaint on July 7 to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) expressing concern that Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor has repeatedly violated the Judicial Code of Conduct through her statements and behavior and is therefore unfit to serve on the High Court.

According to the letter signed by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

"I write to you out of concern that out-of-court statements and activity by Judge Sonia Sotomayor violate various provisions of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges ("Code of Conduct"). In fact, Judge Sotomayor may be in violation of the Code of Conduct as a result of the following:

  • Repeated prejudicial and racist comments.
  • Recent membership in an organization that practices "invidious discrimination" based on sex.
  • Improper political activity.

The Judicial Code of Conduct notes that the duty to "act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary applies to all the judge’s activities, including the discharge of the judge’s adjudicative and administrative responsibilities. The duty to be respectful includes the responsibility to avoid comment or behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment, prejudice or bias."

Judge Sotomayor’s statements and activities, Judicial Watch contends, have repeatedly violated this and other canons of the Code of Conduct. Among the evidence presented by Judicial Watch to support its contention:

Sotomayor’s Prejudiced and Racist Comments: During an October 2001 speech at the University of California Berkeley, Sotomayor said the following: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life." Judge Sotomayor has also promoted the idea that "gender and national origins" of judges "may and will make a difference in our judging."

Sotomayor’s Membership in an Organization That Practices "Invidious Discrimination" Based on Sex: According to Canon 2 (c) of the Judicial Code of Conduct: "A judge should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin." Judge Sotomayor recently resigned her membership from the Belizean Grove, a private organization consisting entirely of professional women that claims to represent the counterweight to the "elite old boys’ network." In her recent Senate questionnaire Judge Sotomayor wrote the following with respect to her organizational affiliations: "None of the above organizations, other than the Belizean Grove, discriminates on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin." Judge Sotomayor stated that the group does not "invidiously" discriminate but the evidence seems otherwise.

Sotomayor’s Improper Political Activity: On April 17, 2009, Judge Sotomayor made a political speech to the Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Law Alumni Association. Among the statements made by Judge Sotomayor during that speech: "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… 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."

Canon 5 of the Code of Conduct plainly states that "A judge should refrain from political activity," and that a judge should not "publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office."

"Judge Sotomayor seems to be in violation of the ethical guidelines that governs the conduct of judges. Frankly, this apparent misconduct ought to give the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate further reason to reject her nomination for the High Court," stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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