Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor flatly rejected on Monday the view that any U.S. Supreme Court justices practice judicial activism.
Speaking Monday to a standing-room only event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., the 60-year-old justice was asked to give her reaction to those who complain about judicial activism on the one hand, yet want the Court to declare laws unconstitutional on the other.
"I think most judges have a definition of judicial activism," Sotomayor said. "It’s a ruling you don’t like."
Sotomayor’s assertion that no judicial activism exists — an article of faith among most conservatives — puts her squarely at odds with Justice Antonin Scalia, who has been critical of the trend toward interpreting the law in whatever way appears to attain socially desirable objectives.
The justice’s statements came at a sold-out gathering of The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches and the Palm Beach County Bar Association.
Sotomayor encouraged citizens to ignore pundits’ commentary, and to read the Court’s decisions for themselves.
"Read a decision where there’s a majority and a dissent. And what you will find out is that both sides always base it on the legal analysis. We don’t come to our conclusion willy-nilly or arbitrarily," she said.
Sotomayor, who is promoting her best-selling book "My Beloved World,"
added that all judges have a "legal toolbox" they employ to render opinions, but suggested that each justice uses those tools in a slightly different way depending on the specifics of any given case.
"When we’re looking at a question, we’re ordering the use of those tools," she said. "Some are more important than others, some don’t get used for particular reasons."
Sotomayor, who was appointed by President Obama and joined the High Court in August 2009, said there is no basis for an allegation of activism.
"My colleague Antonin Scalia has just written a book on interpretive principles, and there are 800 of them," she said. "And he has his own way of saying this is more important than that.
"I will tell you that any principle he says is more important than that, I can point to a decision that he’s written where he hasn’t done it that way," said Sotomayor. "This isn’t because he wants to arrive at a particular answer. It’s because every law is different."
No justices have been activist in their opinions, she said.
"In the end, we do believe in law," she said, declaring flatly: "And there won’t be any decision you read where you will think that a judge is activist.
"Every judge is trying to do the best that he or she can to enforce the law as he or she believes it is written."
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