From Lauren Collins’ profile of Justice Sonia Sotomayor in The New Yorker : “A study of Sotomayor’s criminal decisions by the University of Texas law professor Stefanie Lindquist found that, of sixty-seven majority opinions involving criminal matters, eighty-one per cent were pro-government and nineteen per cent were pro-defendant. ‘People who think she’s going to be a really reliable liberal on all issues-I don’t know!’ one of Sotomayor’s former clerks said.”
I e-mailed Lindquist to ask how Sotomayor’s record in criminal cases stacks up in comparison to other appeals court judges nominated by Democrats versus Republicans. So more on this soon. But my hunch is that as a former prosecutor, the justice is more liable to see things a cop or a prosecutor’s way than some of her liberal colleagues are. Here’s one case along those lines that gave me pause during the confirmation process. We’ll know more about Sotomayor’s approach to criminal law by the end of the term, given the court’s docket. I do think, based on her questions at oral argument, she’ll come down on the side of banning life without parole as a punishment for juveniles. But in other cases where it’s a question of making life easier or harder for prosecutors or the police? As her clerk said, if you’re a liberal, you might not want to count on her.