I haven’t been moved to do the research, but I would not be surprised if Barack Obama is owed the prize for the worst nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court ever to be confirmed by the Senate. That would be Sonia Sotomayor, the self-described “wise Latina” who was picked using the same criteria that led to Joe Biden choosing Kamala Harris as his VP: checking the right boxes. Obama was seeking a Hispanic judge (another first!) and a woman, but managed to choose a judge with weak credentials whose selection insulted better judges, female judges and Hispanic judges who were more qualified than her, and there were a lot of them. Since her confirmation, Sotomayor has introduced touchy-feely “compassionate” arguments exactly where they should never show their mushy heads: in Supreme Court oral arguments and opinions. Some of her opinions read as if they were composed by anyone with a law degree, though her law clerks are expert at stuffing them with the requisite number of case cites for appearances sake.
The latest example of Soromayor’s sentimental hackery was her dissent in the case of U.S. v. Dustin John Higgs, in which the Court, by a 6-3 vote (guess the three!) turned down the writ of certiorari of a man convicted of kidnapping and murdering three women, and sentenced to death. Justice Sotomayor began,
After seventeen years without a single federal execution,the Government has executed twelve people since July. They are Daniel Lee, Wesley Purkey, Dustin Honken, Lezmond Mitchell, Keith Nelson, William LeCroy Jr., Christopher Vialva, Orlando Hall, Brandon Bernard, Alfred Bourgeois, Lisa Montgomery, and, just last night, Corey Johnson. Today, Dustin Higgs will become the thirteenth. To put that in historical context, the Federal Government will have executed more than three times as many people in the last six months than it had in the previous six decades.
Such an approach is a logical fallacy called “appeal to emotion.” That’s not law, that’s sentiment, assuming one is moved to tears by the idea of multiple convicted murderers finally being executed after years of expensive appeals and stalls. Sotomayor seems to think the fact that the “Federal Government will have executed more than three times as many people in the last six months than it had in the previous six decades” and that it was 17 years before the Trump administration did what should have been done all along has more than trivia value. So what? The U.S. has a death penalty, and finally has decided to follow through on it. Good.
That the Justice chose this as her introduction tells us all we need to know about her biased and unprofessional perspective. She’s not looking at the law, she’s looking at using the law to advance an agenda. The latter part of her dissent—her law clerk did a pretty good job—is a useful compendium of all the ways and arguments defense lawyers use to drag out death sentence executions for years, decades, or forever.
But it’s clearly just Sotomayor talking when she writes,
Throughout this expedited spree of executions, this Court has consistently rejected inmates’ credible claims for relief. The Court has even intervened to lift stays of execution that lower courts put in place, thereby ensuring those prisoners’ challenges would never receive a meaningful airing. The Court made these weighty decisions in response to emergency applications, with little opportunity for proper briefing and consideration, often in just a few short days or even hours. Very few of these decisions offered any public explanation for their rationale.
This is not justice. After waiting almost two decades to resume federal executions, the Government should have proceeded with some measure of restraint to ensure it did so lawfully. When it did not, this Court should have. It has not.
No, what isn’t justice is forcing the state to pay millions in taxpayer funds that is desperately needed elsewhere to keep convicted psychopaths and predators alive while they avoid the sentences handed down after fair trials and due process.
- Every condemned prisoner has “credible claims for relief” right up until he or she dies.
- Even lifting stays of execution! The Horror! Yes, that’s because the judges like Sotomayor scattered around the courts of the nation also object to capital punishment on emotional, sentimental and other non-legal grounds, and will stay any execution if given the chance.
- Every one of the individuals Sotomayor named has had multiple opportunities to have his or her claims “meaningfully aired.” Dustin John Higgs, for example, kidnapped and murdered Tamika Black, 19,Tanji Jackson, 21, and Mishann Chinn, 23, in January 1996, 25 years ago. Poor Corey Johnson, just to pick another of the Justice’s names at random, murdered Peyton Johnson, Louis Johnson, Bobby Long, Dorothy Armstrong, Anthony Carter, Linwood Chiles, and Curtis Thorne in 1992, 29 years ago.
- “Some measure of restraint!” Twenty-nine years isn’t restraint, it’s paralysis.
- Another howler: “Very few of these decisions offered any public explanation for their rationale.” Every one of these people received fair trials where the evidence overwhelmingly proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that they were guilty of brutal murders and had forfeited the right to live in a civilized society. No more public explanation is needed.