Language Lab
05-28-2009
I have written a couple of posts now looking at the special language that infuses Supreme Court confirmation battles with all sorts of coded political meaning. In particular, I have suggested that supporters of Judge Sonia Sotomayor should be on the lookout for senators who find the potential for judicial activism to be troubling. It is in the deployment of these coded words and phrases that you will get the best early read on how opposition to her nomination is shaping up. On the other hand, I have also confessed to being unable to fully grasp the Obama Administration’s  notion of judicial empathy as a criterion for selecting a nominee.
 
I guess I wasn’t the only one struggling with this particular legal concept. According to today’s New York Times, the White House is dropping its use of this phrase in favor of a new one – judicial modesty. I bet the White House believes that modesty sounds like an antidote to the expansiveness of activism, which might help Sotomayor’s handlers better position her as a judicial moderate. In fact, modesty sounds a whole lot like moderate, and the dictionary tells me that both words are akin to the Latin word modus, or measure. And, as all of this underscores, measured speech is the order of the day in Supreme Court nomination battles.


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