I don't have a particular opinion on Sonia Sotomayor, the Second Circuit Court judge who has emerged as an early frontrunner -- and an early point of controversy -- for David Souter's replacement. But having mentioned Jeffrey Rosen's article quoting anonymous associates of Sotomayor who oppose her nomination and question her intellectual capacity, it's also worth excerpting this missive from Professor Robin Kar, a former Sotomayor clerk who's not afraid to sign her name when she opines on her former boss:
I count myself privileged to have worked closely with some of the very best minds in the world, in both law (at Yale Law School and in the legal academy) and philosophy (at both Harvard College and the University of Michigan’s graduate school, which was widely considered the best department in ethics in the world when I was there.) Judge Sotomayor stands out from among these people as one of the very brightest; indeed, she is in that rarified class of people for whom it makes sense to say that there is no one genuinely smarter. (Others who have stood out in this way in my experience would include Harold Koh, the former dean of Yale Law School, and Peter Railton, a moral philosopher at the University of Michigan.) Judge Sotomayor is much smarter than most people in the legal academy, and much smarter than most judges who are granted almost universal deference in situations like this. And while I have worked with numerous people who are thought of as some of the best minds in the nation, and about whom the question of brilliance would never even arise, most of them are—quite frankly—pedantic in comparison.
[...]She is courageous and fearless, but non-ideological, and wholly unimpressed by the kind of pomp and false theoretical excess that can sometimes make one look smarter in the short term but only at the expense of distorting the underlying issues. One measure of the extraordinary judgment she has is reflected in her incredible life story: she moved unerringly, and without any hint of doubt or hesitation, from the Bronxdale Public Housing Projects to graduating summa cum laude from Princeton, where she received the Pynes Prize (for their top graduate), and then to Yale Law School, the DA’s office, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The force of character that it takes to live such a life should never be underestimated: we have no other person on the bench with her experience and intellect who has come from these beginnings and who has developed with such clarity of purpose and vision.
There's much more here. And for more Sotomayor commentary, head over to Mark Kleiman's place, where he reads some of her legal opinions and concludes that they "take me from a position of never having heard of Sotomayor to a position where I would be delighted to hear that the President had nominated her."
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