Did Justice Sotomayor Reschedule The Swearing In of VP Biden So She Could Attend Her Book Signing?

January 19th, 2013

Vice President Biden gave Justice Sotomayor the honor of swearing him in. David Savage and Michael Memoli of the LA Times Reports that Sotomayor has a scheduling conflict and will swear h im in four hours early.

Vice President Joe Biden will not be sworn in Sunday at noon alongside President Obama at the White House because Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had somewhere else to be.

Biden selected Sotomayor, the first Latino justice, to administer the oath. But Biden’s office said Sotomayor had a scheduling conflict Sunday and could not be at the White House at noon.

So Sotomayor will swear Biden in at 8:15 a.m. Sunday at the Naval Observatory, the vice president’s official residence. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will swear in Obama at noon.

So what was so important?

The Supreme Court did not respond to a question about where Sotomayor would be at that time. But the Barnes & Noble store on Union Square in New York City says she will be talking about her new memoir, “My Beloved World,” at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday and signing copies.

Here are the details of the event:


Signature only, and no personalization.

A book signing? Really? Assuming that she in fact rescheduled on the Vice President for a book signing in New York, I find this to be disrespectful. I’m pretty sure Barnes & Noble is more amenable to schedule changes that the person who is one heartbeat away from the Presidency. And really? To schedule an event the day before the inauguration? Next weekend is wide open at Union Square.

I can’t imagine this went unnoticed in the White House. I would be surprised if she is asked again. In 2008, Justice Stevens swore him in Biden (Stevens got the Oath right).

This also can’t speak well of Sotomayor’s collegiality on the Court. If she is willing to publicly blow off the Vice Presidency, one must wonder how she operates inside the Court. From what we see on the outside, she is fond of writing solo dissents, and is frequently very aggressive during oral arguments. (I think she may over talked over Justice Thomas’s first peep from the bench in nearly 7 years).

In December 2010, Adam Liptak and others, following a great post by Mike Sacks, queried whether Sotomayor would guide the liberal wing of the Court.  As evidence of this hope, they cited her solo dissents, strong questioning, and even dissents from denial of cert.

At the time, I disagreed, and thought this evidence cut the other way.

Sure, Sotomayor is vocal on the bench. I’ve attended a number of oral arguments, and anecdotally, I’ve noticed that she tends to ask a lot of forceful questions as compared to her predecessor, and is frequently the first to ask a question. Likewise, she has taken to penning dissents from denial of cert on certain hot-button issues like prisoner rights. She is certainly trying to do something to shake things up. Whether her actions will guide the liberal wing, and presumably shift the Court to the left, is dubious.

The only thing that will shift the Court to the left (other than a retirement) is persuading Justice Kennedy to change his mind [JB: In hindsight  add Chief Justice Roberts to that list]. Does anyone think Justice Sotomayor’s brusque questions at oral arguments and dissent from a denial of cert on a case that none of her colleagues found worthy of review on a claim that the court of appeals found “patently frivolous” will make any difference?

For the possible negative consequences of an aggressive Justice, look no further than Justice Scalia. Surely, Scalia’s rhetoric has done nothing to shift Kennedy, and previously O’Connor, to the right. If anything, it has pushed them away. President Bush did not even consider him for Chief for these reasons.

Why would anyone think that Sotomayor doing her best Scalia impression would bring Kennedy to the left? It could even have the unintended consequence of pushing him the other direction, especially with a tactful Chief Justice at the helm of One First Street assigning opinions [JB: Still working Kagan’s vote in NFIB].

Justice Kagan, and her suave, unassuming but persuasive temperament, may represent the Left’s last best hope to persuade Justice Kennedy on the key issues of the day.

I am more convinced of what I wrote after following the Court for two more years. Kagan’s strategery is masterful. Reading through the entire record in the ACA litigation has convinced me that she and Chief Justice Roberts are on a different level as to what they are trying to accomplish on the Court (I’ll elaborate more on that in my book and future writings).

Let’s just hope everyone gets the oath right this time 🙂