White House counters 'activist' charge with 'restraint'

The White House's counter argument to the conservative charge that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is an "activist" jurist became clear very quickly on a conference call with legal experts Wednesday: Sotomayor, the experts said repeatedly, has shown remarkable judicial "restraint" over the course of her career.

The White House sponsored the call that featured several Supreme Court experts and professors, a few of whom were classmates of Sotomayor's at Yale Law.

"Her instincts were of restraint," William Marshall, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, said of the Ricci case conservative groups are hanging around Sotomayor's neck. Marshall went on to say Sotomayor is a "cautious lawyer" who "reads statutes narrowly."

"She doesn't come into cases with a broad doctrinal bias," said Paul Smith, a partner at Jenner & Block, LLP. "But instead comes in and looks at the facts...and decides which way the case ought to go."

"She often reads statutes extremely closely," added Harvard Law professor Martha Minow.

Repeatedly, Sotomayor was called a "lawyer's lawyer" who respects precedent, which is another way of saying she isn't seeking to change law and policy based on any sort of ideology.

Sotomayor, said Kevin Russell a Supreme Court advocate and partner at Howe and Russell, LLP, believes it is "not her job to fix every social ill in the world."

jeremy.jacobs@thehill.com

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