Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor '76 is very smart, contrary to press reports

A story by Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic entitled "The Case Against Sotomayor" is causing a minor uproar across the blogosphere today. Sotomayor, who graduated from Princeton in 1976, is rumored to be one of the frontrunners to become President Obama's first Supreme Court choice. Rosen cites several anonymous clerks from her Federal Appeals Court that say that she does not have the intellectual heft for the job, despite graduating from Princeton and then Yale Law School:
The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was "not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench," as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. "She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue." (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, "Will you please stop talking and let them talk?")

I am in no position to judge Sotomayor's jurisprudence, but I am in a position to provide strong evidence of her intelligence. Sotomayor won the Pyne Prize during her senior year at Princeton, which is the highest academic award given to undergraduates. Winning the Pyne Prize means she had to have grades at the top of her class, in addition to providing extracurricular leadership. For those outside of the Princeton community, the Pyne Prize commonly goes to Rhodes or Marshall Scholarship finalists and winners, so that should give a sense of the academic requirements that the prize entails.


PeterW said...

As many have noted, The New Republic is now publishing perceptions that Sonia Sotomayor is not that intelligent. Granted, even if affirmative action played a role in her acceptance to Princeton and Yale law school, the fact that she graduated and passed the bar suggests a minimum threshold of ability. But that's not good enough, it seems that many liberals would like someone who can go toe-to-toe with the conservatives on the court intellectually, and she doesn't pass the grade on that elevated level. When the stakes are high, and a Supreme Court position is arguably one of the most powerful positions within the American government, the perceived marginal returns on more IQ become stark for those who would pooh-pooh it in other contexts, dismissing it as a cultural construct or other nonsense responses to Murray's The Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

PeterW's post is puzzling to say the least. What is his point? To provide an objective-sounding explanation for liberal dissatisfaction with Sonia Sotomayor? But is there any such widespread liberal dissatisfaction to explain? If I were to do what Jeff Rosen did, and talk to my anonymous, in-the-know Democrat buddies, then I would say that the Dems would be quite thrilled with Sotomayor's nomination.

Another question: is PeterW taking for granted that Sotomayor lacks the high-level intellect needed to go "toe-to-toe" with the conservatives? Or is he just asserting that liberals think this is the case? His statement that Judge Sotomayor has "a minimum threshold of ability" to pass the bar and graduate suggests that PeterW himself thinks Judge S has only this ability to offer.

But surely this can't be what he is thinking: he would have had to ignore, among other things, the main point of the above blog post regarding the Pyne prize. I think what I found confusing about PeterW's comment is that he toggles between providing some kind of explanation of what liberals are thinking about SS and what he believes to be true (i.e., that he thinks race and intelligence are correlated per Murray). Maybe PeterW would be so good as to try posting again to make his point clearer.

Paul Turner said...

I understand puzzlement about what PeterW is saying. It's pretty nasty stuff, and it only makes sense when you understand that he imagines that TNR is a liberal rag and that Rosen is delivering the liberal party line. Thus, in his view, Rosen's comments reflect widespread liberal dissatisfaction with Sotomayor. With this untrue premise, his arguement is as follows:
(1) Liberals are planting the story that Sotomayor is not intellegent.
(2) That must mean they don't want her on the court.
(3) Why? Because they know they need a genius to match wits with the intellectual giants on the conservative side.
(4) And when the stakes are this high, liberals abandon their pretense that all races are equally intelligent.

michael said...

The ridiculous and inane PeterW and Murray's Bell Curve collide with logic quite easily. The more stolid and stuck on 1779 bloc within the SCOTUS are hardly
a match for MS. Sotamayor in any sort of discussion
requiring one to be unbiased. Chief Justice Roberts and boy robin, Justice Alito, are completely lost to reality concerning fairness and parity. Justice Thomas
follows Justice Scalia like a puppy. Justice Sotamayor is a breath of fresh air in the hallowed halls.


Anonymous said...

well, that's just your opinion, man

Anonymous said...

Most idiotic comment award goes to Michael, the Senile Californian, who finds opposing views "ridiculous" and "inane", and finds Justice Roberts and "boy Robin" Justice Alito "lost to reality concerning fairness and parity".

Congratulations, douchebag, you found a way to reduce a blog discussion of politics below the normal sewer level.

anon. said...

The Daily Princetonian announcement of Sotomayor's Pyne Prize says that she had "mostly A's over the last two years" of college. That's good but the prize is hardly an academic coronation in her case, and it was awarded largely for her community involvement and activism. Her performance in law school points in the same direction: bright, hardworking and below the top intellectual echelon. She was an editor at Yale Law Review but not an academic star. The summa history degree was built partly on Puerto Rican Studies seminars, according to the New York Times report.

The other Pyne awardee in her graduating was an economics concentrator, teaching assistant in upper-level economics courses, and had the highest GPA at Princeton as of the end of freshman and junior years. That type of record, of consistent objective excellence in intellectually demanding work, is the halo some are incorrectly trying to attach to Sotomayor based on the Pyne Prize.

Sotomayor certainly has a great resume, and a better academic record than some sitting justices, but I see no sign there of a sterling intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Any astute, breathing, or otherwise methane breathing human mamal, or, otherwise endowed with the ability to accurately listen, accurately hear, accurately digest,and at appropriate times, discern, sccurately evaluate,and speak the truth, sometimes are missing common sense. Consider this, some individuals that by institutional standards are sometimes raving idiots when it comes to applying academics in the real world with common sense and forthrightness. I have had college professors, that if would you asked them a simple question related to their academic credentialed area, could not answer the simpliest question, but would use the same liberat tactic of belittling you instead of telling you they didn't know the answer or they would get back with you. Liberals are a rare bread...the truth often evades them. Oh yeah, acidemic or "intelligent" people can also be sexist...look it up acadamia. Wake up America...take off your blinders. You only live once why be a liberal?