Sonia Sotomayor’s latest event to promote her new memoir, My Beloved World, didn’t have any of the show-stopping moments for which her tour stops have become known; there were no heartwarming hugs with audience members or salsa dancing this time around. She spent much of her talk at the 92Y last night dispensing tiny pearls of judgely wisdom (“We have deep commonalities, we just sometimes forget to look at them”), all of which were met with pensive “Mmmms” by the audience.
But Sotomayor surely raised a few eyebrows when she expressed hesitation about allowing cameras into the Supreme Court.
“There’s no other public official who is required by the nature of their work to completely explain to the public the basis of their decision,” she said, when asked about the hotly debated issue by moderator Thane Rosenbaum. “Every Supreme Court decision is rendered with a majority opinion that goes carefully through the analysis of the case and why the end result was reached. Everyone fully explains their views. Looking at oral argument is not going to give you that explanation. Oral argument is the forum in which the judge plays devil’s advocate with lawyers.”
“I think the process could be more misleading than helpful,” she added. “It’s like reading tea leaves. I think if people analyzed it, it is true that in almost every argument you can find a hint of what every judge would rule. But most justices are actually probing all the arguments.”
Sotomayor’s remarks are particularly surprising because she previously seemed inclined to allow the televising of oral arguments. “I have had positive experiences with cameras,” she said at her confirmation hearing in 2009. “When I have been asked to join experiments of using cameras in the courtroom, I have participated. I have volunteered.” She later told Senator Arlen Specter that she would “certainly relay those positive experiences” to her future colleagues on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor even boasted of her persuasiveness. “I’m a pretty good litigator, or I was, a really good litigator,” she said, “and I know that when I work hard at trying to convince my colleagues of something after listening to them, they’ll often try it for a while.”