In the Loop: Knock on Sotomayor Won't Be Inexperience

A new justice with more experience on the federal bench? Look back to 1910.
A new justice with more experience on the federal bench? Look back to 1910. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
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By Al Kamen
Friday, June 12, 2009

The battle over Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court has moved into high gear, with the Senate Judiciary Committee setting hearings for July 13. Some on the Hill are predicting an all-out Republican fight on this one. Others predict there will be some spirited GOP questioning, enough to mollify the base, but not much more -- after all, the Latino vote can swing as many as 56 electoral votes in the Southwest and Florida.

Barring a major surprise, Democrats are feeling pretty confident that she'll be approved and that she has the legal experience needed for the job.

Quick Loop Quiz! Sotomayor, with more than six years of district court and more than 10 years of appeals court experience, goes before the committee with more years of total experience in the federal courts than any Supreme Court justice since . . .?

Ah, you guessed it: since the legendary Justice Horace Harmon Lurton, who served for 17 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit before going to the high court in 1910. Lurton, a former Confederate soldier whose photos remind some of White House counselor David Axelrod, served only four years before he died, so he didn't leave a substantial jurisprudential footprint.

PRECEDENT IS PRECEDENT

Speaking of the Supreme Court, the Loop 2009 Legal Citation of the Year goes to Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in dissent to Monday's ruling that state court judges may be obliged to recuse themselves from a case if they've received large campaign contributions from one of the litigants.

Scalia wrote that a "Talmudic maxim instructs with respect to the Scripture: 'Turn it over, and turn it over, for all is therein.' The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Aboth, Ch. V, Mishnah 22 (I. Epstein ed. 1935)."

Scalia, we seem to recall, hasn't been a big fan of international law, but as Richard Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, opined, he doesn't "mind citing foreign law, so long as it is a few thousand years old."

Well, it hasn't been overturned.

NEW SURGEON GENERAL?

There's increasing chatter these days that Susan Blumenthal, former assistant surgeon general and a Clinton White House adviser on health issues, is emerging as a leading candidate to be surgeon general. Blumenthal is married to Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

FAINT PRAISE FOR GABON

President Obama's mom must have taught him that if you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything at all.

Here's what the State Department said in its Feb. 25 human rights report on the small African country of Gabon, ruled since 1967 by President Omar Bongo, who "was reelected for a seven-year term in an election [in 2005] marred by irregularities."

"The country's human rights record remained poor," the report noted, citing "use of excessive force, including torture toward prisoners and detainees . . . arbitrary arrest and detention . . . restrictions on the right to privacy . . . on freedom of speech, press, association, and movement."


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