Contact: Peter Robbio or Megan Erhardt — 703-683-5004
Last week, soon after the White House delivered Judge Sotomayor’s Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire in what it billed as record time, it became clear that Judge Sotomayor had failed to disclose an important memo she wrote for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) arguing against the death penalty in New York.
“It now appears that she failed to disclose more than just that memo: the questionnaire contains many glaring omissions that would have given the Senate and the American public a better idea of who she is and how she approaches the law,” said JCN counsel Wendy E. Long. “These omissions lead to the inescapable conclusion that the White House wants to rush through her nomination without giving Senators and the American people full transparency about Sotomayor’s record.”
Among other materials, the current questionnaire omits:
1. The White House described Judge Sotomayor as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. Judge Sotomayor did not disclose or provide copies of materials she edited for these publications, as required by Question 12(a).
2. In Question 11, Judge Sotomayor discloses that she was a longtime member of Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). Question 12(b) requires Judge Sotomayor to disclose and provide copies of “reports, memoranda, or policy statements you prepared or contributed to the preparation of on behalf of any bar association, committee, conference, or organization of which you were or are a member or in which you have participated as defined in 11a.” Despite more than a decade and several high ranking positions with PRLDEF, Judge Sotomayor disclosed only one document. Judge Sotomayor failed to disclose whether she was involved in the highly controversial litigation matters brought by PRLDEF, including Guardians Ass’n v. Civil Service Commission, regarding racial quotas in the New York Police Department.
3. Question 12(d) requires Judge Sotomayor to provide copies of speeches or talks, or, in the absence of a transcript or copy of the speech, then a summary. Judge Sotomayor failed to summarize or include a copy of several speeches, choosing instead to provide unresponsive descriptions like “I was a panelist at this event and spoke on Second Second Circuit employment discrimination cases”; “I spoke on the United States Judicial System”; “I spoke on the implementation of the Hague Convention in the United States and abroad”; “I participated in an ACS Panel discussion on the sentencing guidelines.”
4. Question 16(d) requires Judge Sotomayor to list and provide opinions for all cases in courts of record she tried to verdict, judgment, or final decision. Instead of providing the required information, in three instances she states only that “The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is searching its records for information on this case.” Even worse, after listing a handful of cases, she stops listing and states only that she tried 14 other cases but that “The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is searching its records for further information on these cases.”
5. Questions 16(e) requires Judge Sotomayor to provide “any briefs, amicus or otherwise, and, if applicable, any oral argument transcripts before [appellate] courts.” Instead of providing the requested materials, she states: “I have requested the briefs and any available transcripts from these cases from the Clerk of the Court of the Second Circuit on May 30th and will forward to the Committee as soon as I receive them.”
6. Questions 26(b) asks whether anyone involved in her nomination ever discussed with Judge Sotomayor “any currently pending or specific case, legal issue, or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue, or question.” Judge Sotomayor answers this question with one word: “no.” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has stated that the President questioned Sotomayor “about her views on the unenumerated rights in the Constitution and the theory of settled law” and is “very comfortable with the fact that she shares a similar interpretation to the Constitution” with Obama, who promised in a speech to Planned Parenthood that “on the fundamental issue of choice” he “will not yield.”
7. Question 26(c) asks Judge Sotomayor if she “know(s) of any . . . representations made by the White House or individuals acting on behalf of the White House” to “any individuals or interest groups as to how you might rule as a Justice.” Judge Sotomayor responded “No.” But White House spokesman Gibbs’s comments, and the promises that President Obama made to Planned Parenthood, suggest that a different answer was appropriate, unless Judge Sotomayor was unaware of the statements by the President and the White House, and the way they have been reported in the press. Moreover, the White House staged a press event on criminal law issues at which Vice President Biden assured law enforcement groups that Judge Sotomayor “has your back,” suggesting that as a quid pro quo such interest groups would “have her back . . . throughout this nominating process.” Law professor and legal ethics expert Steven Gillers at New York University said: “She’s not there to ‘have their back.’ She’s there to interpret the law as she sees fit,” and that “Biden crosses the line when he starts representing to interest groups that she would be voting in their favor.”