Justices Sotomayor and Kagan in the spotlight

This has been a revealing week for President Obama's two appointees to the Supreme Court, who are becoming two of the strongest voices on the Court. On Monday, Justice Sotomayor made national headlines with her opinion regarding a denial of cert. (beginning at page 13 of this Order List) — though agreeing on procedural grounds with the decision to deny review, she rightly excoriated a prosecutor who argued in a criminal case that the presence of African-Americans, Hispanics, and money in a room should give rise to an inference that a drug deal was taking place. On Tuesday, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan were the only votes for the FDCPA plaintiff's position in Marx v. GRC (which we discussed here); the dissent included this forceful criticism of the majority's self-serving legislative history analysis:

Some Members of the majority have expressed doubt about the relevance of legislative history, claiming that relying upon it is analogous to “entering a crowded cocktail party and looking . . .for one’s friends.” Conroy v. Aniskoff, 507 U. S. 511, 519 (1993) (SCALIA, J., concurring in judgment). But speculating whole cloth about congressional intent, as the majority does, is surely more problematic. The majority is saved the trouble of having to look for its friends at the party; it simply invites them.

And yesterday, both Justices were quite active — and willing to challenge their more conservative colleagues directly — in the oral argument over the Voting Rights Act; for a good description of some of the courtroom exchanges and a discussion of the two new Justices' evolving role on the Court, check out this Washington Post op-ed.

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