Sotomayor Comes into Focus

Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor told the Puerto Rican ACLU that U.S. judges should consider foreign law in deciding unsettled issues.

In an April speech, Judge Sotomayor said:

“[I]nternational law and foreign law will be very important in the discussion of how we think about the unsettled issues in our own legal system….It is my hope that judges everywhere will continue to do so because . . . within the American legal system we’re commanded to interpret our law in the best way we can, and that means looking to what other, anyone, has said to see if it has persuasive value.”

What “anyone” has said?

Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona yesterday spoke from the Senate floor about these and other disturbing statements made by the nominee.

“What on earth does this have to do with judging?” Kyl said. “Asking what ‘anyone has said to see if it has persuasive value’? How about using traditional rules of construction, precedents, and other judicial tests based on our common law heritage?

“Judge Sotomayor also reveals that she believes foreign law is a source for ‘good ideas’ that can ‘set our creative juices flowing,’” Kyl continued. “Deciding an anti-trust case, or a commerce clause dispute, or an Indian law issue, or an establishment of religion case does not require ‘creative juices.’ Indeed, it could interfere with specific rules of construction or application of precedent.”

“But Judge Sotomayor says that not considering foreign law ‘would be asking American judges to close their minds to good ideas,’” Kyl said. “What is close-minded about requiring that American judges interpret our laws and our Constitution? That’s what they take their oath of office to do!”

“Let’s also remember that Judge Sotomayor has previously stated that appellate courts are ‘where policy is made,’” Kyl added. “When you combine the notion that judges may usurp the legislative power of policymaking with the view that foreign law is an incubator of creative ideas for a judge to employ as he or she sees fit, you open the door to the worst form of judicial activism — one completely untethered from American legal principles.”

“Judges do not have the responsibility of finding new, ‘good ideas’ that would make good policy,” Kyl said. “That is the role for our elected representatives. The ideas expressed by Judge Sotomayor threaten to undermine a system that has served us well for more than two centuries.”

New Lax Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

On March 9, President Obama signed an executive order lifting restrictions on U.S. government funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Yesterday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released the administration’s new guidelines which allow federal tax dollars to be used for the destruction of human embryos for clinical research.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio yesterday talked about drastic changes in administration guidelines that will relax the standard of proof for the origination of embryos for some stem cell lines.

“These final regulations represent a troubling development for those who believe that taxpayer funds should not be used to destroy human life,” Boehner said. “The administration’s decision to dramatically expand the number of stem cell lines derived from human embryos and create incentives for the destruction of human life is a provocative step beyond what the President proposed just months ago.”

Draft guidelines in April required precise documentation for the origination of all embryos. The new guidelines released yesterday have relaxed those standards for already-existing embryonic stem cell lines.

Raynard Kington, acting director of the NIH, spoke yesterday about the vast broadening of clinical research on human embryos. “Opportunities for research will greatly expand, and we predict that there will be more research funded,” Kington said.

The so-called stimulus bill funneled $10 billion to the NIH.

Kington also said that the NIH guidelines would be changed time and again to reflect “the evolution of science.” It only took three months for the administration to water down the documentation required to prove the origination of the embryos. But they do assure us that human cloning is off limits. Even for needed transplant organs. Promise.