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Obama To Name Supreme Court Nominee


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene.

In just a few minutes, President Obama will announce his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. The choice is already known. It's federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

INSKEEP: And we're going to hear now, as we wait for the president's announcement, from a person who served with Judge Sotomayor on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court. Judge Guido Calabresi is on the line. Welcome to the program, sir.

Judge GUIDO CALABRESI (U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit): Thank you.

INSKEEP: Some people will be wondering the very simple question - what kind of a judge is she?

Judge CALABRESI: She's a wonderful judge. But I want to go back before that, because I taught her in her first year in law school. She was in my torts class and I went back and found my notes from that, from her exam, graded anonymously, and it was a terrific exam.

INSKEEP: She got an A?

Judge CALABRESI: Well, the law school does not give grades in first term. But I marked it as one of the top exams in a very tough class. So it was nice. She was a Princeton (unintelligible) and was terrific then and has been terrific ever since.

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask, because years later you ended up on the same Court of Appeals with her. What did you think she had learned in the intervening years?

Judge CALABRESI: She learned a lot about life in the law. She is a very fact, case-driven person. She does not decide cases on the basis of high or fancy theory - though she's smart enough to do any of that - but she just decides a case before her on the basis of what makes sense in that case.

INSKEEP: Okay. Let me ask about that, because I think that some people, particularly on the left or the right, are going to listen closely to those words and they're going to be asking, does that mean that she decides a case on the situation more than, say, what the Constitution says?

Judge CALABRESI: Oh, no. Oh, no. She is the law is what sets the parameter. She decides the case on the law, but she looks to what is actually going on in the individual case. That's often true of people who are district judges before going on a court of appeals. And that's something that's been missing on the Supreme Court, people who actually saw real cases with real people in terms of the law.


Judge CALABRESI: The law always guides us.

INSKEEP: Judge Calabresi, as we wait for the president's announcement, I want to ask about one other thing, and that is that any Supreme Court justice, of course, is one of nine, and any ruling or majority that's put together is often a negotiation. And so your personality, your style, can be significant. And I'm reading this article by Jeffrey Rosen in the New Republic who quotes a couple of anonymously - a couple of courts who had served around Judge Sotomayor. One was not complimentary and said she's kind of a bully, not that bright. Another seemed to think

Judge CALABRESI: Let me speak to that directly.


Judge CALABRESI: First, she has changed my mind any number of times. I hope I have changed her mind, because she is strong and good. When - some people, when she first came on, asked - said some things like that, I kept track. Her way of dealing with other people is exactly the same as male judges do. The fact that she is a woman and does that meant that some people thought, oh, women shouldn't act that way. She is a totally fair, good negotiator, good talker with other people, but she's no different from anybody else.

INSKEEP: And to be fair to Jeffrey Rosen's article, we'll say that another former clerk or person who clerked around her said that she had similar qualities but was very tough and self-confident.

Judge Calabresi, thanks very much.

Judge CALABRESI: Thank you. Good luck.

INSKEEP: Judge Guido Calabresi Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.
David Greene
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.