Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor Explicitly Supports the Heller Decision

The news is in: Sonia Sotomayor explicitly endorses and supports the individual right to bear arms as decided in the Supreme Court case DC v. Heller. The following are direct quotes from her testimony this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee:


LEAHY: I've owned firearms since my early teen years. I suspect a large majority of Vermonters do. I enjoy target shooting on a very regular basis at our home in Vermont. So I watched that decision rather carefully and found it interesting.

Is it safe to say that you accept the Supreme Court's decision as establishing that the Second Amendment right is an individual right? Is that correct?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes, sir.

LEAHY: Thank you.

And in the Second Circuit decision, Maloney v. Cuomo, you, in fact, recognized the Supreme Court decided in Heller that the personal right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution against federal law restrictions. Is that correct?


LEAHY: And you accept and applied the Heller decision when you decided Maloney?

SOTOMAYOR: Completely, sir. I accepted and applied established Supreme Court precedent that the Supreme Court in its own opinion in Heller acknowledged, answered the -- a different question.

LEAHY: Well, that -- let me -- let me refer to that, because Justice Scalia's opinion in the Heller case expressly left unresolved and explicitly reserved as a separate question whether the Second Amendment guarantee applies to the states and laws adopted by the -- by the states.

Earlier this year, you were on a Second Circuit panel in a case posing that specific question, analyzing a New York state law restriction on so-called chuka sticks (ph), a martial arts device.

Now, the unanimous decision of your court cited Supreme Court precedent as binding on your decision, and that Supreme Court -- longstanding Supreme Court cases have held that the Second Amendment applies only to the federal government and not to the states.

And I noticed that the panel of the Seventh Circuit, including people like Judge Posner, one of the best-known very conservative judges, cited the same Supreme Court authority, agreed with the Second Circuit decision. We all know that not every constitutional right has been applied to the states by the Supreme Court. I know one of my very first cases as a prosecutor was a question of whether the Fifth Amendment guaranteed a grand jury indictment has been made applicable to the states. The Supreme Court has not held that applicable to the states.

Seventh Amendment right to jury trial, Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines, these have not been made applicable to the states. And I understand that petitions asking -- seeking to have the Supreme Court revisit the question applied to the Second Amendment to the states are pending (inaudible) that case appears before the Supreme Court and you're there how you're going to rule, but would you have an open mind, as -- on the Supreme Court, in evaluating that, the legal proposition of whether the Second Amendment right should be considered fundamental rights and thus applicable to the states?

SOTOMAYOR: Like you, I understand that how important the right to bear arms is to many, many Americans. In fact, one of my godchildren is a member of the NRA. And I have friends who hunt. I understand the individual right fully that the Supreme Court recognized in Heller."

'Nuf said.


Kevin Starrett said...

"In fact, one of my godchildren is a member of the NRA. "

Yep, that's good enough for me. More proof that this Latina woman is wiser than I. a mere white guy.

kevin Starrett said...

"When Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma asked her, point blank, "Is there a constitutional right to self-defense?" Sotomayor said that was an "abstract question" and that she couldn't think of a Supreme Court case that addressed that issue."

From Gun Owners of America

Anonymous said...

"Legal proposition of whether the Second Amendment right should be considered fundamental rights and thus applicable to the states?"

Her response
"I understand the individual right fully that the Supreme Court recognized in Heller."

Her response does not answer the question, because The "Heller" case does not ask this question.

Typical legal-leeze speek. She answered the exact question with the exact answer, just like a good lawyer would do.

She believes that "certain" Constitutional rights are not inclusive to the States. Today’s judges believe that the 1st or 4th, or the 6th are inclusive to the States under the 14th amendment, but these judges pick and choose what constitutional right they want to apply to the state level. This is pure hypocrisy.

They stand up for freedom of speech, freedom of the press. They say this applies to all levels of our society, but they refuse to give the 2nd the same respect as all the rest. This again is hypocrisy.

I believe that this style of “judicial” decision making is very common amongst all judges conservative and liberal, but it doesn’t make it right. The Constitution is the law of the land, the baseline for which all laws are taken from.

Legal scholars would like you to think the Constitution is a very complex document, but to the contrary it is very simple and straight forward. Written by simple farmers that had revolutionary ideas.


Zak Johnson said...

It's not hypocrisy for a circuit court judge to follow the law of the land as it is determined by the Supreme Court. In fact, it's their legal responsibility to do so. Read the Heller decision--Scalia specifically says in it that the 2nd Amendment has not been applied to the states because it has not been "incorporated" under the 14th Amendment.

I agree the 2nd Amendment should automatically have been seen as applying to the states for the simple reason that it was part of the Constitution that all the state's ratified. But that's unfortunately NOT the opinion of the Supreme Court and hasn't been for over 100 years. The questions of ultimate authority of state vs. federal law go back at least to Thomas Jefferson's theory of nullification--right back to the beginning.

You can't have it both ways when it comes to Sotomayor--calling her an activist judge for simply upholding the laws as determined by the Supreme Court. Sorry.

Anonymous said...


She has always stated that she follows legal precedent, But now she has the ability to create precedent at the Supreme Court level. Do you believe that when the issue of "inclusiveness" reaches the highest court in the land. Will she buck the trend of hypocrisy in our highest court or will there be another 100 years judicial bias. Remember "Heller" was 5-4 decision. One different opinion and your rights are gone on "precedent"

Hopefully the thoughts of the 9th circuit will awaken the lifers on the SC about inclusiveness.


Zak Johnson said...

I think Sotomayor's comments this week, as well as feedback I've heard of her meetings with senators indicate she will join the 5-to-4 majority on Heller, making it 6-to-3 (it ought to be 9-to-0 but that's another story.) Of course, as you know, Sotomayor is replacing a justice who voted against Heller. I'm equally interested in what Kennedy will do since the Heller decision was so limited and specifically dodged the incorporation question--I have to wonder if Scalia really believes the restrictions he authored into the decision were justified or if he had to do it to get Kennedy to join the majority (a scary though to say the least.)

I find it terribly ironic that the 9th circuit, usually viewed as the most stereotypically "liberal" is the one pushing for incorporation. But both the 2nd and the 7th circuit court decision, which agreed with Sotomayor that incorporation is an open question, effectively invited the Supreme Court to clarify that position. I am optimistic.

Zak Johnson said...

"...will there be another 100 years judicial bias..."

Again, gun rights are not right, left or center. They are civil rights. Review Nixon's record if you don't believe me. I'd take Brian Schweitzer (Democratic Gov. of Montana) over the vast majority of Republicans when it comes to protecting gun rights.

Regardless of your own political bent, every time you repeat the cliche that gun rights are somehow exclusively a conservative value or worse a Republican value you are encouraging elected Democrats to ignore gun rights, and pushing away potential allies.

No political coalition is going to do much if they start out by purging the heretics. For instance, I went on the Constitution Party's local access program awhile ago and found that we agreed almost entirely on gun issues, though we'd likely agree on little else. Kevin Starrett's conservatism is well-known, but on gun rights he works with members of both major parties to try to move the ball down the field. Allies are as allies do.

Zak Johnson said...

Yesterday the Supreme Court incorporated the Second Amendment as applying to the states. Incredibly, the decision was only 5-to-4. Sotomayor voted AGAINST protecting the right to keep and bear arms from state or city government encroachment. Worse, Sotomayor & Ginsburg both signed the decision written by Justice Breyer which not only attacked Heller and the right to bear arms, but which also attacked the right to self defense itself! The intellectual contortions required to deny that self defense was a fundamental right in the eyes of our constitutional framers show Breyer has no respect for that document, or at least not when it conflicts with his personal prejudices. By signing Breyer's dissent, Sotomayor joins him both is showing no respect for precedent and no belief in people's natural right to defend themselves from attack. I'm stunned that anyone could go so far as to deny the right of self defense, let alone 3 out of 9 of the top judges in the country. It's a sad day, despite the victory. I was wrong and apologize without reservation.