Among the treasure trove of speeches and writings by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor released Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, one talk she gave in 2000 to the Litigators Club in New York stands out as an interesting appraisal of the differences between her then-new job on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and her prior position as a U.S. District Court judge in New York. The club is a lawyers’ organization that meets periodically to hear from federal and state judges.
Her speech also offers further insight into what she may have meant in 2005 when she made the now-controversial statement at Duke University that appeals courts are “where policy is made.” In the 2000 speech, Sotomayor said one of the aspects of appellate judging that she has had to consider is that “our decisions affect not only the individual cases before us, but the course of litigation and the outcome of the many similar cases pending or to come. This fact has made me much more aware of the policy impact of the decisions I have drafted or worked on.” She added that if, after drafting a decision, she realizes that its impact on future cases would go beyond the language of a statute or its legislative history or purpose, “then the analysis will have to be reexamined and either abandoned or narrowed further.”
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