New Education Ahead for Justice Sotomayor

Good article by Robert Barnes, Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post, on what comes next for newly confirmed Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The article focuses on what makes the Supreme Court unique as a judicial body, and the steep learning curve for all who go to work there.

Even a federal judge as experienced as Sotomayor, who will be sworn in Saturday, will need time to get used to life as a Supreme Court justice, a quirky job that is tradition-bound but also remarkably open to individual interpretation. …

“It’s a bit daunting, and she’ll come in with no familiarity with Supreme Court procedure,” said Stephen R. McAllister, a University of Kansas law professor who was one of Justice Clarence Thomas’s clerks during his first term on the court.

On questions about whether to overrule the court’s precedents, which she will face in a Sept. 9 hearing on campaign finance, “it will require a mind-set change for her,” McAllister said. “This is the court most free in the federal system to make change, and she’ll have to get used to that.”

As one example of the court’s quirky traditions, the most junior justice takes notes at conference meetings and answers the door when knocked–duties fulfilled by Justice Stephen Breyer for 11 years before Samuel Alito joined the court.

To read the full article, click here.

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