Civil libertarians have been complaining that many liberals are ignoring that Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been viewed as hostile to core liberal values and has a fairly conservative voting record in many areas, including free speech, student rights, and criminal procedure. For a review of her cases, click here. Another case has come to light that shows little of the empathy cited by the White House. While Vice President Joe Biden has emphasized the Sotomayor “watches the back of police” in cases (which is supported in some of her more controversial rulings), she has shown little empathy for those challenging police or convictions. The case of Jeffrey Deskovic is being cited as one such case.
Sotomayor was one of the judges who dismissed Deskovic’s 2000 appeal to United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit with a cursory two-page decision. The panel based its decision on the fact that the filing was made four days late due to confusion between the lawyer and the clerk.
Deskovic was convicted at 16 of killing a high school classmate and filed a habeas corpus petition to challenge his conviction. He was later proven innocent by DNA evidence.
His lawyer insisted that he was misinformed about the due date by the clerk’s office and that his client should not suffer for the miscommunication. However, Sotomayor and another judge refused to consider the merits based on the technical filing problem.
He would spend six more years behind bars until finally proven innocent (and the real killer arrested).
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 requires that habeas corpus petitions must be submitted no more than a year after a conviction becomes final or, as the courts later determined, no more than a year from the act’s implementation. This meant that he had until April 24, 1997 to file his habeas but his papers were filed four days late. Sotomayor and Judge Rosemary S. Pooler ruled that, even if the lawyer was told by the clerk that he had the later due date, it was still a violation and barred the appeal.
There is an interesting disconnect in the position of many liberal organizations, which have abandoned prior views to support this nominee without a hint of concern. As noted earlier, such rulings would normally cause liberals considerable concern and prompt intense review if this were a Republican nominee. Instead, there is virtually no discussion of such rulings by most liberals despite objections from civil libertarians that the left will lose ground on the Court if Sotomayor votes as she did on the Second Circuit.
For the full story, click here.