Posted on July 8, 2009

Sotomayor Failed to Disclose to Senate Memo in Which She Argued Death Penalty Is ‘Racist’

Pete Winn, Cybercast News Service, June 5, 2009

The Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN) says Judge Sonia Sotomayor failed to disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee a controversial document arguing that the death penalty is “racist” and a violation of the present “humanist” thinking of society.

The 1981 memo, they say, should have been disclosed as required under Question 12 (b) of the questionnaire that the Supreme Court nominee turned in Thursday.

Question 12(b) requires a nominee to “(s)upply four (4) copies of any reports, memoranda, or policy statements you prepared or contributed to the preparation of on behalf of any bar association, committee, conference, or organization of which you were or are a member or in which you have participated.”

JCN Counsel Wendy Long sent a letter Friday to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and members of the committee arguing that Sotomayor had not properly complied with this requirement because she had not submitted the 1981 memo on capital punishment.


Long told that her group had obtained a copy of the memorandum from an undisclosed source–and was convinced of its authenticity. The copy of the memorandum attached to JCN’s letter to the Judiciary Committee is signed by a three-person task force of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) that included Sotomayor.


She also truthfully listed on the questionnaire an April 10, 1981 letter from PRLDEF to then-New York Gov. Hugh Carey, opposing reinstatement of the death penalty.

“But what she omitted, and what is far more substantive and revealing,” Long told, “is the underlying policy memorandum that she and two other task force members sent to the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund with all their reasons for opposing the death penalty, and arguing for the organization itself to take the stand that it ultimately did take in its letter to Gov. Carey.”

The memo that Sotomayor signed makes a number of “controversial, unsupported, and badly reasoned assertions” about the death penalty, Long added.

The memo, titled “Task Force on the Bill to Restore the Death Penalty in New York State,” and dated March 24, 1981, states:


–“Capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society. The number of minorities and the poor executed or awaiting execution is out of proportion to their numbers in the population.”


The document was signed by Sotomayor and the other two members of the task force–Joseph P. Fitzpatrick, S.J., and Jorge Batista.

On Friday afternoon, a Washington story cited Fitpatrick as the “driving force behind the document,” but failed to report that Sotomayor was required to disclose the document to Congress–but didn’t.


“In other words, what she’s saying in this memo is that everybody agrees with this: that the death penalty is racist, that there’s no other view, that it completely violates the Judeo-Christian position–all of these are highly controversial positions that are certainly contradicted by other evidence,” Long told


[Editor’s Note: The Sotomayor memorandum on the death penalty can be downloaded here. Scroll down to June 5, 2009, Questionnaire Supplement.]