Judge Sotomayor’s Ethics Problems
July 10, 2009
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Judicial Watch Raises Ethics Concerns about Judge Sotomayor
Judicial Watch sent an important letter this week to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) regarding the Sotomayor nomination. Here’s the crux of my message: Judge Sotomayor, through her words and behavior, repeatedly has violated the Judicial Code of Conduct, including:
- Repeated prejudicial and racist comments;
- Recent membership in an organization that practices "invidious discrimination" based on sex; and
- Improper political activity.
Let’s take each of these points one by one.
First, Judge Sotomayor’s prejudiced and racist statements. 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 also said, "gender and national origins" of judges "may and will make a difference in our judging." (These are just two of many Sotomayor’s racist statements included in my letter. Click here to read the others.)
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."
With respect to her membership in a discriminatory organization, as I told you a few weeks ago, Judge Sotomayor was forced to resign her membership in Belizean Grove, an organization consisting entirely of women, which claims to be the counterweight to the "’elite old boys’ network." Judge Sotomayor admitted on her Senate questionnaire that the group is discriminatory but stated that the group does not "invidiously" discriminate. The evidence seems to suggest otherwise. And 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."
Regarding Judge Sotomayor’s improper political activity, on April 17, 2009, the judge made a political speech to the Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Law Alumni Association. Here’s what she said: "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 "a judge should not "publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office."
In closing the letter, I asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate these statements and activities. And I also requested that Judicial Watch be given the opportunity to present testimony before the committee during Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, set to begin next week. But honestly, the Judiciary Committee already has more than enough reasons to reject the Sotomayor nomination. (I didn’t even get into Sotomayor’s long-term leadership relationship with the racist Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the subject of a recent Judicial Watch special report.)
I’ve said this before (and I’m going to say this until the vote comes down in the Senate): Please call your Senator today and tell them your thoughts on the Sotomayor nomination. My sources on Capitol Hill tell me this is the only way to get the message across to the U.S. Senate. The number for the Senate switchboard is: (202) 224-3121. Time is running out.
Judicial Watch Asks Court to Declare Hillary Ineligible to Serve as Secretary of State
Judicial Watch continues its battle over the constitutionality of the appointment of Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State. On July 2, our legal team filed a motion with a special panel of three federal judges in the District of Columbia asking the court to declare Hillary Clinton ineligible to serve as Secretary of State.
As you’ll recall, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of U.S. Foreign Service Officer and State Department employee David C. Rodearmel. Here’s our bottom line: The "emoluments clause" of the U.S. Constitution prohibits Clinton from serving as Secretary of State and Mr. Rodearmel cannot be forced to serve under the former U.S. Senator, as it would violate the oath he took as a Foreign Service Officer in 1991 to "support and defend" and "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution of the United States.
Government lawyers had previously filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on behalf of Clinton. In this latest court filing, Judicial Watch submitted an opposition to the motion to dismiss as well as a cross motion for summary judgment, which, if granted, would effectively decide the case in favor of Judicial Watch’s client.
It has been a little while since I’ve written about this, so let’s take a quick look at the legal issues here.
According to Article I, section 6 of the U.S. Constitution: "No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time." The text of the provision is an absolute prohibition and does not allow for any exceptions.
However, as Judicial Watch notes in its complaint, "the ‘compensation and other emoluments’ of the office of the U.S. Secretary of State increased during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure in the U.S. Senate, including as many as three times during the second, six-year term to which she was elected."
Now, Congress attempted to circumvent this constitutional provision by "rolling back" compensation for the position of Secretary of State to the level in effect on January 1, 2007 (commonly known as the "Saxbe Fix"). Judicial Watch maintains: "This [fix] does not and cannot change the historical fact that the ‘compensation and other emoluments’ of the office of the U.S. Secretary of State increased during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure in the U.S. Senate." Judicial Watch also notes that throughout the nation’s history, "the Ineligibility Clause was readily understood and applied consistent with its plain language." Only relatively recently have government officials attempted to get around this constitutional provision through legislative quick fixes.
The plain truth is Hillary Clinton is ineligible to serve as Secretary of State until 2013. The Constitution is crystal clear on this point. Congress is attempting to do an end run around the Constitution and the courts should put a stop to it.
Dodd Allegedly Undervalues Irish Property – Again!
As you will recall, Judicial Watch filed a complaint on April 24 with the Senate Ethics Committee against Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) for undervaluing a property he owns in Ireland on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms. For years, Dodd has placed the value at about $190,000. Press reports suggested the true value was much higher. After we filed our ethics complaint, the value suddenly ballooned to $658,000.
But check this out according to The New York Post:
US Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut may have lowballed the value of a vacation property he acquired in a sweetheart deal in Ireland.
According to the Democrat’s latest financial disclosures, obtained by The Post, Dodd claims his three-bedroom cottage on 10 acres with breathtaking views of the Atlantic is worth $638,000.
This figure falls far short of property values on Inishnee Island, where The Post discovered Dodd’s next-door neighbor was selling a much smaller property for $1.2 million.
Looks like Senator Dodd needs to go back and once again redo his Senate financial disclosure form.
But remember, the false disclosure form is just part of this potentially criminal story. As we contended in our complaint: "Senator Christopher Dodd used his position and influence as a United States Senator to intervene on behalf of his longtime friend and business associate, Edward Downe, Jr. Senator Dodd is then alleged to have benefited financially as a result of his intervention, and failed to disclose the financial benefits by filing inaccurate Senate Financial Disclosure Statements from 2002 through at least 2007."
I just covered this story in some detail a few weeks ago, so I won’t repeat all the details in this space. But I do suggest you read through our complaint, which can be read by clicking here.
Until next week…
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