Mean – Or Just Tough and Smart? Nina Totenberg Offers the Final Word on Sotomayor’s “Temperament”

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This should be the final word on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s supposed "temperament" troubles.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg set out to answer the question — is Sotomayor "tough" on lawyers who appear before her, or is she "mean, unduly snotty, or abusive?"  Totenberg listened to two recent oral arguments in high-stakes cases, finding that Sotomayor asked questions and interrupted attorneys no more often than her colleagues on the bench did.  And Totenberg points out that other members of the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, are not strangers to posing direct questions to lawyers, as they did in a recent case about the Voting Rights Act.

Totenberg also helpfully quotes Sotomayor’s mentor, former Yale Law School dean Judge Guido Calabresi, who says:

…when Sotomayor first joined the Court of Appeals, he began
hearing rumors that she was overly aggressive, and he started keeping
track, comparing the substance and tone of her questions with those of
his male colleagues and his own questions.

"And I must say I
found no difference at all. So I concluded that all that was going on
was that there were some male lawyers who couldn’t stand being
questioned toughly by a woman," Calabresi says. "It was sexism in its
most obvious form."

Consider the myth definitively dispelled.