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Judge Sotomayor, In Practice
June 02, 2009
03:23 PM EST
Today, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been visiting Capitol Hill to meet with both Republican and Democratic senators. Her first stop was the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called her "the whole package."
When the President announced his nomination of Sotomayor, he cited her extensive experience and breadth of perspective, working at almost every level of the judicial system, noting that, "She's been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. She spent six years as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and would replace Justice Souter as the only justice with experience as a trial judge, a perspective that would enrich the judgments of the Court."
At the beginning of that trajectory, as a young assistant prosecutor, she was assigned her first murder case, People v. Richard Maddicks -- known as the "Tarzan burglar." Hugh Mo, Judge Sotomayor’s co-prosecutor in the case, writes in today’s Politico that Sotomayor’s real world experience will serve her well as a Supreme Court Justice:
As the political debate continues over the meaning of "empathy," or the impact of her gender and ethnic heritage on Judge Sotomayor’s qualifications, judicial philosophy and her commitment to interpreting the Constitution, in the end, I believe the best way to view her qualifications is through the lens of her time as an assistant district attorney in New York during one of the worst crime sprees in a generation. That real world experience – as a skilled legal practitioner who not only ruthlessly pursued justice for victims of violent crimes but understood the root causes of crime and how to curb it – will serve her, and the country, well on the Supreme Court.
The "Tarzan Burglar" went on a three-month crime spree from 1981 to 1982 that left three people dead and many more injured. Mo describes an assistant prosecutor who dove into every aspect of the case, from helping to write the opening statement, to establishing relationships with the detectives and victims’ families, to presenting half of the prosecution witnesses, all in the context of an amazingly complex case. According to Mo, her impressive trial skills helped lead to a 62 1/2 years-to-life sentence:
Judge Sotomayor played a pivotal role in the Tarzan case as an imposing and commanding figure in the courtroom and as a skilled practitioner who could weave together a complex set of facts, enforce the law and never lose sight of whom she was fighting for.
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