Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited OCU yesterday for an hour-long session with law students, law faculty, and other members of the OCU community.
Law professors and President Robert Henry asked Sotomayor questions, which she elaborated on.
Sotomayor began her presentation by discussing her Puerto Rican heritage, and the encouragement of her parents while she pursued her law career. She also gave advice to those looking to begin their law career, including an admonition to remain off personal devices.
“Lawyers, don’t use your devices in court,” Sotomayor said. “Be sure to look at the witness and see how they say what they say. That’s important.”
The discussion then moved on to more controversial topics, as Sotomayor began detailing what it meant to be a Supreme Court Judge.
Valerie K. Couch, dean of the School of Law, asked Sotomayor, “Are there any areas considered fundamental to democracy that you’d overturn precedent?”
According to the Princeton University Law Dictionary, an overturned precedent can occur when the Supreme Court justices find that the precedent (a legal case establishing a principle or rule) does not apply to current social or legal circumstances.
Sotomayor said that she would like to look into cases which seem to violate Fourth Amendment rights to freedom from governmental intrusion.
“I am fundamentally a rule follower, so I wouldn’t be willing to overturn precedent,” Sotomayor said, “But I do think some old precedents can, and should, be reexamined.”
Later on in her discussion, Sotomayor gave the examples of drones currently operating in the U.S., under both governmental and private supervision.
“Many Americans don’t know that there are drones which are flying over and reporting on our activity on our private property,” Sotomayor said. “I don’t like that someone can buy a drone and fly it over my house.”
Sotomayor urged the students to think about these questions.
The Fourth Ammendment rights of citizens has been a hot topic issue since the USA Patriot Act was instituted following Sept. 11. The act allows investigators to “use surveillance against more crimes of terror,” “federal agents to…follow terrorists used to evading detection,” “conduct investigations without tipping off terrorists,” and “ask a court for an order to obtain business records in national security terrorism cases,” according to the Justice Department’s web site. In practice, this act has been extremely controversial, criticized for bugging phones, spying into citizen’s private data, and collecting financial and business data that does not have anything to do with terrorism.
Sotomayor ended her discussion with a reminder to OCU law students.
“Lawyer or not, remember: first and foremost, we must be active citizens,” Sotomayor said.
The discussion brings many questions to the OCU campus as a whole. What do you think? We’d like to here your comments on the Supreme Court, Fourth Amendment Rights, the Patriot Act, or any other aspects of Sotomayor’s discussion.