Sotomayor Crime Rulings: “Moderately Liberal”


Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions show support for the rights of criminal defendants and suspects, skepticism of corporations, and sympathy for plaintiffs alleging discrimination, reports the Washington Post. The newspaper says she delivered rulings “with a level of detail considered unusual for an appellate judge.” Said University of South Carolina political scientist Donald Songer: “I don’t think it’s fair to classify her as tough on crime. I would use the term ‘moderately liberal,’ not ‘moderate.’ But she certainly seems to be in the mainstream of Democratic judges.”

In rulings that split judicial panels, Sotomayor voted to overturn convictions or sentences eight times, at a rate comparable to that of other Democratic-appointed judges. Six times, she affirmed them. Sotomayor and seven colleagues voted to set free a convicted murderer who did not contest his guilt but had been tried on what the court called the wrong murder charge. When she threw out a life prison term for a convicted heroin dealer, ordering a resentencing, Sotomayor wrote that judges should not show “slavish adherence” to the “literal terms” of then-mandatory sentencing guidelines when their language is flawed. The view echoed her criticism of the guidelines from the bench.

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