Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Bill Donohue: Will Likely “Quietly Root For” Sotomayor (!)

Conservative Catholic activist Bill Donohue shocked me this morning by saying he will “quietly root for” the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor. During an email exchange, he wrote:

“I like the fact that she is not brandishing her religion. I do not want Catholic judges to rule as Catholics but as judges. I am all for Catholic legislators having a Catholic-informed opinion, but a judge has a different charge. Unless something pops that we don’t know about, I am not going to oppose her. Indeed, the experiences I had working with the Puerto Rican community lead me to quietly root for her.”

Donohue is the head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, and a longtime critic of liberal cafeteria Catholics, pro-choice Catholic politicians and anti-Catholic bias in the media. He’s an honorary member of the “religious right” so his comments are sure to stir conversation among religious conservatives.
The first part of the comment is interesting, as it mirrors what Justice Antonin Scalia has himself said: that Catholic judges have no obligation to bring to bear their religion in deciding matters on the court. It signals that I may have been wrong in predicting full out Catholic church campaign against her. Of course, it may be easier for Donohue — and the Catholic hierarchy — to stomach Sotomayor because she doesn’t, so far, seem to be a down-the-line pro-choicer.
Whatever the reason, Donohue’s statement is a signal that, at a minimum, there is not a united front among religious conservatives.

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posted May 28, 2009 at 10:59 am

i have no big issue with her per se, but to many catholic making rules for us goverment. We need even balance set of judge from all walks of life. I think we need none believer in judge seat too. I am Christian and believe all my judgement are relasted to my belief.Anywho most of these so called Catholic judges do not really pratice what the Roman Catholic’s church teaching. But, I am one to talk, I converted to Protestantism.

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Jeff Sullivan

posted May 28, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Bill Donahue is making a false comparison. He believes – or implies, at least, that he believes – that the only two possible outcomes from a Justice Sotomayor are rulings from the perspective of a judge, or those from a Catholic. But this is patently false: Sonya Sotomayor has indicated an affinity for ruling from the bench as a policy maker. And given her left-wing politics and her record as a Federal District Court and Court of Appeals judge, I don’t think there would be anything particularly Catholic about her rulings.

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New Age Cowboy

posted May 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed whether or not any of us like her. Time to move on to fixing American crapitalistic healthcare, where doctors don’t make health decisions; but insurance companies do.

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posted May 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Upon further review I agree with Jonathan Turley and Mark Levin. She is not intellectually sufficient for the Court. Begging for a berating, I think she is a Gender and Race bait choice designed to further the Democrats hold on the Latino (read Mexican) community. The fact that she is a Catholic is irrelevant. Prior opinions, or lack thereof, present the best position of her center. Shall I mention she is a member of LULAC, is disqualified as far as I am concerned. And before you start skewering me why would Obama nominate her when other great prospects are available?

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posted May 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm

All the lines of attack I see against her are the same, she advocates making policy from the bench, she’s not that bright, she’s a racist. I’m persuadable on all those (though the racist thing seems a stretch), but let’s see something that proves those assertions from her legal opinions, rather than from speeches or from poorly sourced articles.

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posted May 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm

“I like the fact that she is not brandishing her religion.”
I think someone needs to mount a search party and figure out who kidnapped the real Bill Donohue.

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the stupid Chris

posted May 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I’d love to know the name of one single judge who does not “make policy from the bench.”
It seems to me that cases only get high in the legal system because there’s a serious question of the policy by which the law was applied in lower courts. Winners always applaud the court for “upholding the law” while losers always accuse the court of “making policy from the bench,” but that’s posturing, just like the losing team was always a victim of the referees.

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posted May 28, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Wow. I think that’s the first time I’ve heard Donohue sound reasonable, though admittedly I’ve mostly heard him commenting on gay rights related matters.

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Your Name

posted May 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm

The notion that Sotomayor is a “radical” liberal is disingenuous and pretty much false.
Whatever her political inclinations may be, nothing from what I’ve seen so far shows that she will judicate as a “radical”
Those who are labelling her a radical—-you DO realize that in one of her rulings she ruled in favor of a Bush-era rule prohibiting taxpayer money being sent overseas for abortions? That’s just one ruling—there are so many others to learn about her record from—and too many to go through here.
She may be a liberal, but she is hardly a radical judge. Donohue should be commended for his statement.

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Opinion Pole

posted May 28, 2009 at 5:38 pm

I don’t see how conservatives could expect better from Obama? Reading what I can find of her record on line, she seems far more moderate than I would have thought. If the Republicans shoot her down the next nominee will be much more liberal, and much more difficult to get rid of.
Given her life story, it’s very hard not to root for her. Bill Donohue gains much from sounding reasonable here. The Republicans should take the hint.

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posted May 28, 2009 at 8:48 pm

This statement by Bill Donahue makes me even more suspicious of the fact that we really don’t know where Judge Sotomayor stands on Roe v Wade. She has never issued a ruling concering this criticle issue and has ruled with the Bush administration concerning their policy of denying funds to any organization which offers reporductive counceling that includes abortion. Scary!
A reversal of Roe v Wade would be a disaster for Women’s reproductive rights and we really must find out where Judge Sotomayor is on the issue.

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non-metaphysical stephen

posted May 28, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Opinion Pole: “I don’t see how conservatives could expect better from Obama?”
Conservatives don’t care who Obama nominates — they’re going to rip the person to shreds anyway, using whatever half-truths and soundbites will stick in their listeners’ minds.
They aren’t interested in working with the President to get this country out of the mess we’ve made over the past 30 years — they just want to get back in power in the midterm elections, and they’re doing so by acting solely as an opposition party.

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posted May 29, 2009 at 12:58 am

There is much Sotomayer can be criticized for, such as her rulings on the race quota for firefighers. She identifies herself as a Hispanic woman. That of course is what she is, but it is also how she defines herself and her thinking. She is not inhibited to proclaim as much. A white man can not do the same thing in our time and get away with it. BTW, looks like the fact that she is at least nominally Catholic is not bothering the Left at unlike the cases of Roberts and Alito. I suppose political theory trumps race, gender, and religion in this matter after all.
That being said, as Donahue implies she can be confirmed. So I say, “what the heck, let it go, confirm her!” But if the next Obama SCOTUS nominee publically defines themselves by their race and gender there should be a big fight.

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posted May 29, 2009 at 1:53 am

@Goodguyex – In the case you reference, Ricci v. DeStefano,” Sotomayor one member of a three-judge panel that ruled to uphold a lower court decision supporting the City of New Haven’s decision to throw out the results of an exam to determine promotions within the city’s fire department. The 3 judges simply upheld a previous ruling in the case that came from a lower court. The two other judges on that panel and the original judge in the lower court finding are all white. Do you consider those 3 white judges to be racists? Or could it be the case is more complex, involving complex legal points, than Sotomayor’s detractors would have us believe?
Regarding her comments about her personal identity informing her view in cases – Alito made the same basic point during his confirmation hearing, saying, “When a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position.” And also, “When I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, “You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country.”
When I have cases involving children, I can’t help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that’s before me.
And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.”
Where was your outrage then? Should Alito be impeached from the court? Or is it just common sense that every judge brings their personal story into the courtroom with them?

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Arizona Republican

posted May 29, 2009 at 3:46 am

This life-long Republican is rooting for Sonia Sotomayor too!

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posted May 29, 2009 at 8:50 am

“Justice Antonin Scalia has himself said: that Catholic judges have no obligation to bring to bear their religion in deciding matters on the court.”
Indeed, ALL judges – catholic or not – have the “obligation” specifically NOT to bring ANY religion into ANY decisions in matters of the court. I, for one, would certainly not want to be ‘judged’ based on catholic criteria (or any other ‘religious’ criteria), since I’m not catholic.
Whatever happened to impartiality? To fairness? To justice? (Considering Justice is supposed to be blind.)

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posted May 29, 2009 at 9:46 am

Excellent points. Appeals courts are made up of 3 judge panels (15 or so if en banc), so Sotomayor was not the only person ruling on the Ricci case. It is, in fact, a very interesting legal question and I’ll be looking to see what SCOTUS says about the issue.
The issue there was not purely about reverse racisim (as people who haven’t actually read the case would say), but whether the city was jusitifed in throwing out the test because it would create a disparate impact…a rule they are supposed to follow under civil rights laws. The city wanted clarity because in some ways they were dam*ed if they do, dam*ed if they don’t.
As for her bringing in her experiences, race, etc… yes, we all look at situations the way we were brought up, the way our religion reflects our views, etc. I don’t know what it’s like to live in the projects, I don’t know what it’s like to be a different race and the implications – good and bad – that come with that. It’s naive to think judges leave that at the door as all of us view the world through our experiences. However, as if they can find in her opinions where her race, her religion, etc influenced her decisions over the actual law, then I’d be concerned. As yet, no one has done that.
Making a statement vs. actually ruling on something because of your race is totally different.

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Dio Genes

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:11 am

Quietly? I didn’t know Bill Donahue had a volume setting lower than “Bellow”.

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posted May 29, 2009 at 3:47 pm

“Justice Antonin Scalia has himself said: that Catholic judges have no obligation to bring to bear their religion in deciding matters on the court.”
Note the word “obligation.” There’s the wiggle room.
Pope Benedict has openly decreed that any Catholic in any kind of official office who rules in favor of any type of abortion will be excommunicated from the Catholic church. With six Catholic judges on the court, what would they do if an abortion rights case made it to the SCOTUS? Would they recuse themselves? Would they risk excommunication?
I think the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “no.” And so it makes perfect sense that Bill Donohue will ‘quietly root’ for her confirmation. The court is now stacked and if they can get a case in front of SCOTUS, I can’t see any of those sitting judges put ruling on legislation above their beliefs or the threat of excommunication. Non-Catholics just don’t seem to get it.
And so if Sotomayor has not taken any stance or shied away from a stance on abortion rights, there’s a calculated reason for her to do so. I can’t even imagine Scalia giving up his Opus Dei membership card.

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posted May 30, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Clarence Thomas said he could walk in other’s shoes
He said, “but for the grace of God go I”
See video:

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posted May 30, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Those who condemn her for the Ricci case are condemning her for NOT being an activist judge. As a Circuit Court judge she is compelled to follow a previous case decision by an earlier 3 judge panel in the Circuit. The only way to overturn the case — and not be “activist” is for the Circuit to hear the case En banc (entire 15 judge panel) or by the Supreme Court to overturn it. SHE FOLLOWED THE LAW. Reading the decision, I think it was purposely set up for SCOTUS to hear it and settle it once and for all.
If it is overturned, she will not be but the case that she was bound by will be overturned.
It’s time for a course correction in civil rights law. 40 years ago, it was more probable than not the test was unfair to minorities, so the skewed results were enough for a legal presumption of discrimination. Today, when the fire department has good minority representation throughout its ranks, the results of one test should not give that presumption of discrimination. After 40 years of civil rights jurisprudence, the only body that can tweak how the legal presumption is applied is the Supreme Court. That is probably why they took the case on cert. in the first place.

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Your Name

posted June 1, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Maryis Your comments are incoherent. Are you a Catholic? I am and am unaware of any decree by our Pope like you describe. Please cite your assertions with some facts. American Catholics are governed by their American elders first… the American Bishops who have yet to excommunicate most Catholic politician for supporting pro-choice laws and policies. One or two have been denied Holy Communion. I WISH THE POPE DID MAKE SUCH A DECREE.

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posted January 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Super blogpost all over Bill Donohue: Will Likely “Quietly Root For” Sotomayor (!)
– Steven Waldman!

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posted March 2, 2011 at 3:20 am

I just want to point this out: Donohue’s statement is a signal that, at a minimum, there is not a united front among religious conservatives.
That’s really true. That what mostly I had encountered. Not only in the catholic church but in other religions as well.
Thanks for bringing it up to this post. I like it.
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