Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama picks Sotomayor for high court

Some info on Obama's pick from AUFL:

The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Despite 17 years on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has never directly decided whether a law regulating abortion was constitutional. She has, however, decided a few cases that indirectly implicate abortion rights.

Writing for the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor upheld the Mexico City Policy which prohibited foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from using federal funding to promote abortion overseas. In a constitutional challenge brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), an American abortion advocacy group that routinely argues that "abortion is the law of the world," Judge Sotomayor first rejected a claim that the policy burdened the First Amendment rights of domestic pro-abortion groups, finding that no First Amendment rights were implicated. The significance of this part of her opinion, however, may be minimal because the issue was largely controlled by the Second Circuit’s earlier opinion in a similar challenge to the policy.

More interesting was Justice Sotomayor’s response to CRR’s second claim that the policy violated the Equal Protection Clause by impermissibly burdening the "rights of domestic abortion groups relative to domestic anti-abortion groups." Rejecting this new argument, Justice Sotomayor wrote that because the challenge involved neither a suspect class nor a fundamental right, a deferential "rational basis" test was appropriate. She then acknowledged the ability of the government to adopt anti-abortion policies, noting "there can be no question that the classification survives rational basis review. The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds."

Finally, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion overturning, in part, a district court’s grant of summary judgment against a group of anti-abortion protestors, albeit on an issue far removed from abortion jurisprudence. When a group of protestors sued the city of West Hartford, CT alleging its police officers used excessive force at a peaceful protest, the district court issued a summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all theories of liability. Writing for the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor reversed the district court’s summary judgment order against the protestors and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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