David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute took the air last night—and the blogosphere—to blast President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. In his diatribe “Sotomayor not a justice for these times,” Frum attacked Judge Sotomayor as someone “whose experience of business law is abstract and academic.”
“Abstract and academic”? Does anybody fact check anything anymore?
David Frum has no idea what he is talking about. Judge Sonia Sotomayor was an attorney in a commercial litigation firm in New York City from 1984 (after prosecuting cases for District Attorney Morgenthau in Manhattan) until 1992 (when she was sworn in as federal district court judge, nominated by President George H. W. Bush).
At the law firm, Sonia Sotomayor represented large corporations in complex commercial litigation, specializing in trademark and unfair competition disputes. As the White House press release notes:
“She entered private practice in 1984, becoming a partner in 1988 at the firm Pavia and Harcourt. She was a general civil litigator involved in all facets of commercial work including, real estate, employment, banking, contracts, and agency law. In addition, her practice had a significant concentration in intellectual property law, including trademark, copyright and unfair competition issues. Her typical clients were significant corporations doing international business.”
“Abstract and academic” and for that reason, “not a justice for these times”? How can so many responsible organizations—American Enterprise Institute, Marketplace, public radio, WBEZ—allow Frum to disseminate such incorrect information?
I wonder whether that this is the beginning of David Frum’s effort to swiftboat Judge Sotomayor. If Frum has any integrity, naturally, he would retract his commentary and support Sotomayor’s nomination for the reason he discusses. On Frum’s view, Sotomayor is the ideal nominee, one of the few individuals ever nominated to the Supreme Court who has had extensive hands-on commercial and corporate litigation experience—just the person Frum would want on the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see what Frum does and whether AEI, public radio, Marketplace, or WBEZ, respond in any way.
It also raises troubling questions about the financial difficulties that newspapers, radio stations, and other media are facing. As media outlets falter, there is an increasing reliance on “blog as reporting” – on news organizations turning to free (or practically free) content providers who are not qualified to comment and who do not fact-check their work. They are, of course, far less expensive. No need for reporters, editors, fact-checkers, researchers, librarians, etc. It’s a bonanza for the media, but a travesty for the rest of us. It feels that we are entering the age of "subprime reporting."
Note: For purposes of full disclosure, I am related to Edgar A. Harcourt who was a named partner at Pavia & Harcourt, where Judge Sonia Sotomayor practiced law.