Politico obtained the audio of oral arguments of five cases heard by Judge Sotomayor’s panels on the Second Circuit. These tapes, Politico reports,
reveal a blunt judge who talks as much or more than her (often equally combative) colleagues; who makes no bones about interrupting or even, in one case, laughing at lawyers; and who goes to no great length to disguise her quarrel with an argument or her point of view.
But they also give no indication that Sotomayor is reluctant to tangle with lawyers who arguments the courts ultimately upholds, or that she is sharper-edged than other appellate judges – though she may be more loquacious than many.
The most interesting excerpts quoted in the Politico report concern Ricci.
In Ricci, for instance, the firefighters’ lawyer just barely had time to say her name when Sotomayor jumped in sharply, seeking to poke a major hole in her lawsuit:
“Counsel, I’m trying to figure out what defendant or what cause of action you’re defending to what defendant. Who are you suing for what?” Sotomayor asked, suggesting that the mayor and other politicians named in the suit couldn’t be targets of the firefighters’ lawsuit.
“Politicians every day get up in all types of forum and make the most ridiculous arguments – some of them illegal,” Sotomayor remarked, explaining “my problem” with the lawyer’s claims.
“You’re saying the mere advocacy of an opinion can make those three others liable?”
Sotomayor wasn’t shy about correcting New Haven’s lawyer in Ricci as well – “Well counsel, this really begs a lot of questions,” she told him with a sigh at one point (listen here)— but she saved most of her scorn for an increasingly plaintive Torre.
“Counsel, we’re not suggesting that unqualified people be hired,” she said with an air of exasperation later in the argument.
We’re not suggesting…? Who is that “we”? Has Judge Sotomayor climbed down from the bench and joined the defendants here … or has she joined them while staying on the bench?