Guido Calabresi has done it all. He is a great legal scholar. He was the Dean of Yale Law School, where he continues to teach. He is a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but if the Democrats had won more presidential elections in the last forty years, he probably would have become a Supreme Court justice. And, as the New York Times reports, Calabresi is quite fond of Sonia Sotomayor.
Calabresi was the Dean during my days at Yale Law School, and I, like most people, found him fair-minded and very open on issues. In fact, I first met Calabresi while I was deciding among law schools, and I passionately "shared" my thoughts with him regarding what I viewed were the law school's shortcomings. He was engaging and thoughtful, even though in hindsight I conclude that I might have exhibited too much chutzpah.
Calabresi continues to approach issues with openness, and he has offered his powerful voice in support of Sotomayor. Calabresi has responded to claims that Sotomayor has a "temperament" issue. Several commentators have raised that matter, citing the notorious Almanac of the Federal Judiciary. But as Calabresi argues (and as I examined in a prior blog post), the reality of sexism (and racism) likely impact the way in which many lawyers evaluate Sotomayor's tough style during oral arguments.
Assertiveness in women -- especially women of color -- is perceived as inappropriate. In men, however, toughness proves that they are strong and capable. The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary primarily describes Sotomayor's assertive questioning as a negative, but with respect to Justice Scalia, whom many people view as exceedingly difficult during oral arguments, the book depicts his toughness in very positive terms.
Perhaps Calabresi's statements can help lay the "temperament" issue to rest. Calabresi says that he monitored Sotomayor during oral arguments and found that her style was not out of line with her male colleagues.
Calabresi believes that sexism explains the negative reviews of her questioning style. According to Calabresi: "Some lawyers just don’t like to be questioned by a woman. . . It was sexist, plain and simple." Calabresi's comments confirm the results of empirical data regarding male attorneys' evaluation of female judges. Calabresi also says that he viewed Sotomayor's toughness as a positive quality and that her rigorous questioning persuaded him shift his positions several times in the past.
Other esteemed judges and law professors offer support for Sotomayor in the article, including Professor Laurence Tribe, Judge John O. Newman, and Judge Richard Wesley. Several lawyers also say that her toughness shows that she takes cases very seriously and that she wants to resolve important issues. I concur.
Update: I neglected to mention that the title of the New York Times article described Sotomayor as having a "sharp tongue," which is sexist language. The authors have changed the title to describe her as having a "blunt style." It is amazing when people casually use language that proves the point they are questioning.
Related Reading on Dissenting Justice: Scalia v. Sotomayor: The Use of Gender-Coded Language to Evaluate a Judge's "Temperament"