Rosen Defends Article, Backs Off On Sotomayor, Calls Her ‘Able Candidate’

As promised, over at The New Republic Jeffrey Rosen has responded to critics of an article he wrote earlier this week calling into question the fitness of appellate court judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court.

Rosen defends all aspects of his piece beyond its title, which he says was assigned without his knowledge by TNR‘s editors, and which he regrets. He makes a number of the same points he made to me yesterday when I asked him about the controversy, but adds a few more.

He writes, “I was satisfied that my sources’s concerns were widely shared when I read Sotomayor’s entry in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which includes the rating of judges based on the collective opinions of the lawyers who work with them. Usually lawyers provide fairly positive comments.”

That Almanac entry is here. Rosen himself acknowledges that, according to the report, “most of lawyers interviewed said Sotomayor has good legal ability,” and “lawyers said Sotomayor is very active and well-prepared at oral argument.”There are, to be sure, some very negative assessments as well, and Rosen says they vindicate his critique. But a Sotomayor supporter who once clerked on the second circuit for a different judge disputes that interpretation. “I was…shocked by his implication that because prosecutors dislike her it means she isn’t fit — in fact, it should be the reverse,” the source said. “If prosecutors have a low opinion of a judge it’s probably because she challenges them, rather than rubber stamping their allegations as many judges do.”

As a peculiar footnote to this entire imbroglio, the last paragraph in Rosen’s post contains unexpected sentence: “Sotomayor is an able candidate–at least as able as some of the current Supreme Court justices–and if Obama is convinced she is the best candidate on his short list, he should pick her.”

Which is rather different, at least in tone, than the conclusion he reached in his original article. “Given the stakes,” Rosen wrote, “the president should obviously satisfy himself that he has a complete picture before taking a gamble.”