A legal advocacy group advised by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in the 1980s actively opposed conservative Robert H. Bork’s nomination to the high court calling him a “threat” to the “civil rights of the Latino community.”
The Senate went on to reject President Reagan’s nominee in 1987.
The revelation is included in 350 pages of documents the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund delivered to the senators late Tuesday evening.
Judge Sotomayor worked for PRLDEF in various capacities from 1980 until she became a federal judge in 1992, spending most of her time as a board member.
The documents, which the group’s lawyers have said include relevant information about Judge Sotomayor’s time there, also show the fund did legal work for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN. During the 2008 presidential election, ACORN came under fire after allegations of voter registration fraud.
Now called LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the group also has supported legalized abortion and called the death penalty racist in previously released documents.
“A cursory look at the limited material now in our possession raises several red flags, including a link between PRLDEF and ACORN, as well as information indicating Judge Sotomayor’s deeper-than-previously thought involvement in developing the legal positions of the organization,” said Stephen Boyd, spokesman for the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions.
Judge Sotomayor’s supporters have said PRLDEF, which litigates on behalf of the Hispanic community, is no more extreme than other mainstream civil rights groups.
“The Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund is a respected civil rights organization, modeled on the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, that promotes equal opportunity,” said White House spokesman Ben LaBolt.
Mr. LaBolt also said it was a stretch to say Judge Sotomayor crafted PRLDEF policy.
“Documents that Judge Sotomayor did not write, review or approve - many of them more than two decades old - are irrelevant to her nomination,” Mr. LaBolt said.
Questions about how potential justices would rule on hot-button social issues are often tough for the candidates and the lawmakers vetting their nominations. Supreme Court candidates - and other judicial nominees - do not typically answer directly whether they oppose abortion or support gun control because judges are bound by the Constitution, existing and previous court decisions.
Still, much of the confirmation process is focused on interpreting the candidate’s previous statements and work.
Judge Sotomayor’s work for the Hispanic advocacy group has recently become a target for Republican lawmakers preparing for her confirmation hearings set to begin July 13. If confirmed, she would become the first Hispanic woman to sit on the bench, replacing Justice David H. Souter, who retired from the bench Monday.
Back in 1987, Judge Bork’s nomination to the court was so beaten back by Democratic senators, including then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, that being rejected for confirmation to the high court came to be referred to as being “borked.”