“I am writing to inform the parties that Justice Sotomayor has determined that she will not continue to participate in this case,” the March 10 notice by Clerk of the Court Scott Harris reads. “The Justice believes that her impartiality might reasonably be questioned due to her friendship with respondent Polly Baca.”
The recusal drew remarks from observers about why Sotomayor waited to long to do, as the case has been running for some time.
“A bit of a head-scratcher how Sotomayor didn’t realize this earlier,” Supreme Court reporter Greg Stohr wrote on Twitter. “Polly Baca is one of three respondents in the case, and this Denver Post article says the two are close enough that Baca was Sotomayor’s guest at her confirmation hearing,” Stohr added.
A bit of a head-scratcher how Sotomayor didn’t realize this earlier. Polly Baca is one of three respondents in the case, and this Denver Post article says the two are close enough that Baca was Sotomayor’s guest at her confirmation hearing. https://t.co/6MMHN3ueSa
— Greg Stohr (@GregStohr) March 10, 2020
“Sotomayor is in fact partly responsible for the marriage of Baca’s sister and brother-in-law — lending her New York apartment to the cause of their courtship two decades before she became the first Latino nominated to the Supreme Court,” CNBC reporter Tucker Higgins added on Twitter.
Last month, President Donald Trump said Supreme Court Justices Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg should recuse themselves from any cases that involve Trump-related matters, citing statements they have publicly made about him and his administration.
“I just don’t know how they can not recuse themselves for anything having to do with Trump,” he said at a Feb. 25 press availability during his trip to New Delhi.
Regarding Sotomayor, Trump was referring to her Feb. 21 dissenting opinion, in which she made a remark that at least some people interpreted as political.
She criticized the country’s highest court for recently overruling a number of lower-court decisions that blocked Trump’s policies, which some interpreted as accusing her colleagues of having a bias in favor of the administration.
“Perhaps most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others,” she said (pdf).
Trump called the statement “terrible” and “highly inappropriate.”
“The way I look at it, she’s trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way,” Trump said.
Because of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, Trump has been able to appoint a record-breaking number of federal judges. With his appointments of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, the nine-member Supreme Court now has five justices appointed by Republicans. Ginsburg and Sotomayor were appointed by Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, respectively.
The Epoch Times and Reuters contributed to this article