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More Sotomayor: Rosen Responds To Critics

I've just returned from London to find that my piece on Sonia Sotomayor has provoked an energetic response in the blogosphere.

Many people have mischaracterized my argument, and I can understand why. The headline--"The Case Against Sotomayor"--promised something much stronger than I intended to deliver. As soon as the piece was published, I regretted the headline, which I hadn't seen in advance. The piece was not meant to be a definitive "case against" Judge Sotomayor's candidacy. It was intended to convey questions about her judicial temperament that sources had expressed to me in the preceding weeks. That's why I concluded the piece not by suggesting that Sotomayor was unqualified for the Supreme Court, but by suggesting that "given the stakes, the president should obviously satisfy himself that he has a complete picture before taking a gamble."

Readers have asked for more information about my sources. A few weeks ago, I received phone calls from eminent liberal scholars I know and trust. These scholars closely follow Sotomayor's work and expressed questions about her temperament. They did not have axes to grid or personal agendas; they are Democrats who want President Obama to appoint the most effective liberal Supreme Court justices possible and were concerned Sotomayor might not meet that high standard. They put me in touch with others in the same situation--mostly former Second Circuit clerks and prosecutors who have argued before her--and nearly all of them expressed the same view, with exceptions I noted in the piece. None of these people would have talked to me without the promise of anonymity: some still argue before the judge, and others continue to interact with her. (And, no, despite a conspiracy-minded suggestion to the contrary, one of my sources was not my brother-in-law, Neal Katyal, currently the deputy U.S. Solicitor General.) Anonymous comments aren't ideal, but there was no other way, in this situation, to get people to share candid questions about judicial temperament....

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--Jeffrey Rosen