'Not that Smart': Sonia Sotomayor and the Construction of Merit

Guy-Uriel E. Charles

Duke Law School

Daniel L. Chen

ETH Zurich - Center for Law and Economics

G. Mitu Gulati

Duke University - School of Law

August 17, 2011

The appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court in 2009 was criticized as sacrificing merit on the altar of identity politics. According to critics, Sotomayor was simply “not that smart”. For some conservative critics, her selection illustrated the costs of affirmative action policies, in that this particular choice was going to produce a lower quality Supreme Court. For liberal critics, many were concerned that the President, by selecting Sotomayor, was squandering an opportunity to appoint an intellectual counterweight to conservative justices like Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Using a set of basic measures of judicial merit, such as publication and citation rates for the years 2004-06, when Sotomayor was on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, we compare her performance to that of her colleagues on the federal appeals courts. Sotomayor matches up well. She might turn out to be more of a force on the Court than the naysayers predicted.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

Keywords: Supreme Court, judges, judicial performance, empirical scholarship

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Date posted: August 10, 2011 ; Last revised: August 18, 2011

Suggested Citation

Charles, Guy-Uriel E. and Chen, Daniel L. and Gulati, G. Mitu, 'Not that Smart': Sonia Sotomayor and the Construction of Merit (August 17, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1907724 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1907724

Contact Information

Guy-Uriel Charles
Duke Law School ( email )
Science Drive & Towerview Rd
Durham, NC 55455
United States
Daniel L. Chen
ETH Zurich - Center for Law and Economics ( email )
Haldeneggsteig 4
8092 Zurich, CH-1015
41 44 632 4462 (Phone)
41 44 632 10 97 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.dlchen.ethz.ch
Gaurang Mitu Gulati (Contact Author)
Duke University - School of Law ( email )
Box 90360
Duke School of Law
Durham, NC 27708
United States
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