So far, the Times has issued four profiles of Obama's potential Supreme Court nominees and found not a liberal among them. Yesterday Times Watch documented how the Times was trying to sell Elena Kagan and Janet Napolitano as moderate choices for the soon-to-be-vacated Supreme Court seat held by retiring Justice David Souter. Today, it's Carlos Moreno.
John Schwartz profiled the "moderate" California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno in Wednesday's hopefully headlined "Californian Would Add Wide Experience to Court." The text box read: "A judge with a compelling personal story and a varied professional career."
Carlos R. Moreno is a long-shot candidate to fill JusticeDavid H. Souter's spot on theUnited States Supreme Court. He is the only man on most short lists when many people believePresident Obamawill appoint a woman; he is also, at 60, a bit old by the standards of recent appointees.
ButJustice Moreno, the only Hispanic member of the California Supreme Court and its sole Democrat, is accustomed to beating expectations. He propelled himself from the working-class neighborhoods of Central Los Angeles toYale University, which he attended on a full scholarship, and rose to become a justice on what is arguably the most important state court in the nation.
A moderate whose opinions deftly blend matters of the head and heart, he is admired on the political left and right - part of the reasonKenneth W. Starr, the former independent counsel who investigated PresidentBill Clinton and is now the dean ofPepperdine UniversitySchool of Law, said "he is genuinely revered here in California."
Schwartz leaned on Moreno's upholding of most death penalty appeals (without adding context) to bluntly assert that Moreno "is not opposed to the death penalty" and is in fact a centrist on the court. Yet Schwartz then listed four other instances in which Moreno took the liberal side of a case - on Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, and rulings on gun shows and class action lawsuits.
As a member of the state's Supreme Court, said Gerald F. Uelmen, a professor at Santa Clara University law school, Justice Moreno is "dead center on a moderate to conservative court," with a dissent rate of about 6 percent. He is not opposed to the death penalty; he has heard some 140 death penalty appeals and voted to uphold the sentence in 90 percent of them.
Justice Moreno sided with the court's majority in last year's decision allowingsame-sex marriage. After that decision was countered by a public initiative, Proposition 8, he was the sole member of the court who voted last year to block the enforcement of the initiative while the court was considering its constitutionality.
In 2002, he upheld the right of counties and cities to ban gun shows at county properties like fairgrounds. On Monday, in an important tort case, he wrote themajority opinionin a 4-to-3 decision that preserved the right of consumers to bring class-action lawsuits against corporations. He has written no major opinions on abortion.
On May 14, legal reporter Neil Lewis issued a sunny profile of potential nominee Sonia Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, "On a Supreme Court Prospect's Résumé: 'Baseball Savior'"
Sotomayor's liberal ruling were glossed over in favor of swapping ancient accounts about her glory days as "baseball savior."
Federal judges are rarely famous or widely celebrated. Yet during a brief period in 1995, JudgeSonia Sotomayor became revered, at least in those cities with major league baseball teams.
She ended a long baseball strike that year, briskly ruling against the owners in favor of the players.
The owners were trying to subvert the labor system, she said, and the strike had "placed the entire concept of collective bargaining on trial."
After play resumed, The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that by saving the season, Judge Sotomayor joined forever the ranks ofJoe DiMaggio,Willie Mays,Jackie Robinsonand Ted Williams. The Chicago Sun-Times said she "delivered a wicked fastball" to baseball owners and emerged as one of the most inspiring figures in the history of the sport.
Judge Sotomayor is now high on lists that lawyers and politicians have assembled of possible replacements for JusticeDavid H. Souterof theSupreme Court.
Part of the reason is her approach on the bench, which she displayed as a trial judge in the baseball strike and for the last 11 years has shown as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, based in New York City. She questions lawyers vigorously, and delivers what her admirers say are crisp, forceful and reasoned decisions.
After several paragraphs reminiscing on Sotomayor's glory days, Lewis eventually got down to some of the actual cases she'd taken on. Lewis does not describe Sotomayor as a liberal, even though he listed two rulings, onthe minimum wage and affirmative action,in which she came down on the liberal side.
In addition to ending the baseball strike while on the trial court, Judge Sotomayor ruled in another case that homeless people working for the Grand Central Partnership, a business consortium, had to be paid the minimum wage.
Her most high-profile case involved New Haven's decision to toss out tests used to evaluate candidates for promotion in the fire department because there were no minority candidates at the top of the list.
She was part of a panel that rejected the challenge brought by white firefighters who scored high but were denied promotion. Frank Ricci, the lead plaintiff, argued that it was unfair he was denied promotion after he had studied intensively for the exam and even paid for special coaching to overcome his dyslexia.