Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sotomayor's First Decision as Supreme Court Justice

Sotomayor's first decision as Supreme Court Justice was released yesterday. It was a unanimous decision, but the reasoning drew some criticism from Justice Thomas. Perhaps most noteworthy was her use of the term "undocumented immigrant". This is believed to be the first such use by the Supreme Court who have previously used the term "illegal immigrant". It may only be a semantic difference, but it may offer some further insight into where she is leaning/predisposed on immigration issues.

You can read the opinion at (note the link is to a PDF file)

"The Supreme Court released its first four decisions in argued cases this term on Tuesday. They were all minor, but one was notable for being Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court debut and for prompting a testy concurrence from Justice Clarence Thomas.

The case concerned whether federal trial-court rulings concerning the lawyer-client privilege may be appealed right away. ...

The decision was unanimous, but Justice Clarence Thomas declined to join the part of Justice Sotomayor’s opinion discussing why the cost of allowing immediate appeals outweighs the possibility that candid communications between lawyers and their clients might be chilled.

In a concurrence, Justice Thomas took a swipe at his new colleague, saying she had “with a sweep of the court’s pen” substituted “value judgments” and “what the court thinks is a good idea” for the text of a federal law.
Justice Sotomayor’s opinion in the case, Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter, No. 08-678, marked the first use of the term “undocumented immigrant,” according to a legal database. The term “illegal immigrant” has appeared in a dozen decisions.

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