David Kairys, a law professor at Temple University, is the author of Philadelphia Freedom, Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer. Kairys' other books include a leading progressive critique of the law, The Politics of Law.
It's hard for me to watch the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, not only because of the Senators' generally unfocused, rambling questions. Conservatives and many of their most cherished values and ideas were just resoundingly defeated in an election. Congress is overwhelmingly Democratic, with 60 Democrats in control of the Senate, which will vote on the nomination. Yet, the hearings and the media coverage of them are dominated by conservatives and conservative ideas about law and justice, and a lack serious criticism of the last three decades of conservative dominance of the courts.
I am aware of and share the priority of getting Sonia Sotomayor seated on the Supreme Court. But there is a big gap of possibility between safely doing that and the surrender we're watching.
The senators of both parties and Judge Sotomayor often seem to be in a debate over who has the most passive vision of judging. Listening to them, one might think judges don't make decisions at all but simply write down legally required results, and have no apparent need for judgment or experience.