Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor and the Wrongfully Convicted

There are many issues which divide political and judicial opinion America today. Separation of church and state, affirmative action and abortion are all "hot button" issues concerning which many have impassioned opinions.

Under the divisive heading of the rights of the accused is the question of the rights of the wrongfully convicted. This is an issue that unites people across the political spectrum. No one wants an innocent person to sit in prison or on death row for a crime of which they are innocent. The very thought of an innocent person sitting in solitude, estranged from family, deprived of liberty and good name is deeply troubling to every thinking human being, except, it seems, Sonia Sotomayor, who seeks to rule on such cases from the Supreme Court of the United States.

Jeffrey Deskovic is a man who spent sixteen years in prison for a crime of which he was later exonerated. He is profoundly shaken by the news of Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. In his all too educated opinion, it bodes ill for the future of American jurisprudence. World Net Daily reports as follows about Deskovic and his weighty concerns.

"The nomination by President Obama of 2nd Circuit Court Judge
Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court
is more than alarming to an innocent man who was convicted of murder and spent 16 years in prison before being cleared and released.

Jeff Deskovic, whose pursuit of freedom has been chronicled by the New York
Times and others, told WND that the last six of those years are directly attributable to decisions endorsed by Sotomayor.

"I'm very alarmed," he said. "The rest of my life, as a result of my ordeal, is dedicated to preventing this from happening to other people."

Sotomayor in her 2nd Circuit position repeatedly put "procedure over innocence" and rejected appeals that could have provided Deskovic with his freedom much earlier than it actually happened, he told WND.

He blames the prosecutors and others in his original case for getting his conviction and sentence, but he blames Sotomayor – and the other judge on the 2nd Circuit panel – for the last six years he remained in prison. "

What moved Sotomayor to reject Deskovic's appeal?

His lawyer did not mail critical paperwork on time. World Net Daily reports as follows about the icy lack of compassion in the court's decision.

"According to reports, his lawyer asked a court clerk about the deadline and was told it had to be mailed by that date. Wrong. The court rules required delivery by that date.

When the paperwork arrived late it was dismissed. Eventually Sotomayor and other appellate judge found that such a mistake didn't "rise to the level of an extraordinary circumstance" and dismissed it.

"The district court correctly dismissed Deskovic's petition as untimely," the appeals court decision from Sotomayor concluded. A subsequent appeal was dismissed with the terse: "It is ordered that said petition for rehearing is denied."

Deskovic was accepted by the Innocence Project on the strength of DNA and other evidence that exculpated him. Another man subsequently confessed to the crime.

Sotomayor holds herself up as an example of the downtrodden and the disadvantaged achieving a position of high status and influence in society. She has repeatedly stated that her life experience gives her wisdom and compassion not to be found in law libraries or the rarefied halls of legal academia. It is precisely on this basis that President Obama heaped praise upon her as he nominated her to the Supreme Court. Jeffrey Deskovic gave Sonia Sotomayor two chances to demonstrate this hard earned compassion for the common man when his case file twice landed on her appeals court desk. Both times she failed. The language of her rejection was antiseptic. It was icy. In the legal labyrinth that Jeffrey Deskovic navigated for 16 years of his life, Sonia Sotomayor was one of the brick layers. After she takes a bow for her part in the sad play of Deskovic's imprisonment, she can have a seat next to the detectives, prosecutors and district attorneys who cherry picked evidence to push Deskovic's conviction into an ill fitting box.

Sonia Sotomayor has just experienced the embarrassment of the Supreme Court overturning one of her most famous decisions as an appeals court judge. In that decision, she threw out the results of a firefighter's promotion test that did not yield a sufficient number of minority graduates. It is a profound embarassment for a jurist to have their decisions reversed upon appeal. Sotomayor is quite familiar with this feeling. Fellow jurists have frequently found fault with her rulings. The Washington Times reports a 60% rejection rate of her rulings. The Washington Times reports as follows.

"With Judge Sonia Sotomayor already facing questions over her 60 percent reversal rate, the Supreme Court could dump another problem into her lap next month if, as many legal analysts predict, the court overturns one of her rulings upholding a race-based employment decision.

Three of the five majority opinions written by Judge Sotomayor for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and reviewed by the Supreme Court were reversed, providing a potent line of attack raised by opponents Tuesday after President Obama announced he will nominate the 54-year-old Hispanic woman to the high court.

"Her high reversal rate alone should be enough for us to pause and take a good look at her record. Frankly, it is the Senates duty to do so," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America."

Sonia Sotomayor has , with her judicial reputation under a cloud clung to her credentials of compassion as grounds to don the robes of a Supreme Court justice. Jeffrey Deskovic has examined these credentials. Through his hard won experience, thanks in good part to Sonia Sotomayor he has found this much touted compassion for the oppressed to be a sham.

There are few in our society who are more oppressed than the wrongfully accused. There can be no higher calling than restoring liberty to those who are wrongfully deprived of it. Whatever her scholarly merits might be, it is clear that the concern of the overwhelming majority of our nation's inhabitants is to her a matter of icy indifference. Accordingly, her appeal to don the robes of a Supreme Court justice should be denied. Sphere: Related Content


scott huminski said...


Sotomayor flunks on getting the most basic principle of appellate law wrong – the Standard of Review.

In Huminski v. Haverkoch, 11/5/04, 03-7036 2d. Cir., Sotomayor reveals an ignorance of the law by failing to apply the correct standard of review to an important civil rights case. She found appellate review was for reversible error when the correct standard of review for such a case (summary judgment) is De Novo.

A simple google on, “standard of review for summary judgment de novo” supplies tens of authorities on the issue. I guess Sotomayor would rather be wrong than google on such a rudimentary issue. She also could have assigned her flock of law clerks to research the issue. Further, on a motion for rehearing specifically pointing out her error she did not act and correct it.

Here is the link to the Sotomayor summary order from this case in which she presided over.

See also,

Where the order states “For the Court”, it refers to Sotomayor and the 2 other judges on the case.

See a different case of mine, Huminski v. Corsones, No. 02-6201 (2d Cir. 10/07/2004) (“We review a district court's grant or denial of summary judgment de novo.”)

Empathy, not much empathy for this wrongly convicted and incarcerated citizen,
It appears she gave this imprisoned man the same bogus one page opinion that I got.

-- Scott Huminski
(202) 239-1252

Anonymous said...

"I am Jeffrey Deskovic. If you think that what happened to me was wrong and you therefore oppose Judge Sotomayor, then I ask you to support me by joining my Facebook group "Judge Sotomayor put procedure over in innocence in Deskovic wrongful conviction, and encourage others to do so as well. Here is the link: Additionally, please ask people to calll your elected reps and tell them you want them to vote "no" to Sotomayor, and that I be given a chance to testify at the Senate Confirmation hearing.
Thanks, Jeff Deskovic "