Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Sotomayor Draws Response from Fellow Justice; Introduces New Term to Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court released its first four decisions in argued cases this term. Although all the cases were minor, the most notable was Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court debut which featured a testy remark from Justice Clarence Thomas directed at his newest colleague.

The case was regarding federal trial-court rulings concerning lawyer-client privilege and if they could be appealed immediately. Justice Sotomayor wrote, “Permitting parties to undertake successive, piecemeal appeals of all adverse attorney-client rulings,” she continued, “would unduly delay the resolution of district court litigation and needlessly burden the courts of appeals.”

She explained that the result was guided by sound policy and was consistent with a law governing appeals.

Even though the decision was unanimous, Justice Clarence Thomas rejected this part of Justice Sotomayor’s opinion and used it as an opportunity to take a swipe at the newest member of the High Court, 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.

Overall, the opinion of the court was fairly straightforward; however Justice Sotomayor did introduce one new politically charged term to the Court’s vocabulary. In Justice Sotomayor’s opinion in the case Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter, she used the term “undocumented immigrant.” According to a legal data base this was the first time in the history of decisions this term was used over “illegal immigrant,” which has been used in a dozen other decisions.

New York Times Article