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Much of the cable babble about the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court dwells on speculation about how she'll rule on the hot button issues -- abortion, guns, race discrimination, and the like. But what about free speech and religious freedom? On that we're fortunate to have the fine folks at the First Amendment Center here in Nashville to fill us in. The Center's legal beagle David Hudson has posted a wide ranging synthesis
of Sotomayor's record on the federal bench on First Amendment issues:
Sotomayor has handled a wide variety of First Amendment issues in her 16 years as a judge for the U.S. District Court and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. First Amendment advocates have hailed her opinions in a gag-order dispute and in protest cases. But she also has been criticized for joining in rulings involving limits on student online expression and commercial-speech claims. Both critics and advocates have found rulings in which she supported or rejected First Amendment claims by prisoners.
Hudson sums up Sotomayor's record as one that "doesn't show a rigid, ideological outlook on First Amendment issues." Indeed, it reveals a judge who is far from a First Amendment absolutist, one who seems to take cases as they come and seeks to balance the competing liberty claims that so frequent twist in the legal wind where free speech, religious expression, and the establishment clause are involved. Conservatives looking to brand the nominee as an unyielding civil libertarian will find the shoe fits poorly (and the metaphor as well).