Wednesday, July 8, 2009

 

Two New Strikes against Judge Sotomayor

As a blog says, Sotomayor's defense give for using the name "Sotomayor and Associates" for her solo practice is weak. It's legalistic (that is, it evades the ethics question and makes it a question of rules) and it's wrong. At the same time, use of that name is quite excusable in her case, unlike the typical case that comes up, because it looks as if no deception occurred and none was intended. If her only use of it was on a tax form, as seems likely, it was an innocent joke to herself. The friends she helped for free surely weren't relying on her having associates. Thus, ironically, the reason this incident casts doubt on her fitness to be a judge is that she chooses a legalistic and legally unsound defense when she had a sound defense based on the facts of the case. It shows that she has a weak sense of right and wrong, and of what makes a good legal argument. The tax question is interesting too. From Taxprof

The NYT article linked makes it clear that while she was an assistant DA, office policy forbade employees from earning outside income, tho she could give legal advice for free.

Thus, either (1) She was earning money unethically on the side, or, more likely, (2) She was not earning income but was illegally deducting expenses such as, perhaps, a home office.

I'll repeat commentor Bob's question:

"Doesn't the IRS have copies of these tax returns? Whenever I refinance my mortgage, part of the standard list of documents that I sign is a form 4506, to order back copies of my tax return."

Quotes:

Ms. Sotomayor’s outside work was approved, she said through a spokesman, by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has a policy that governs such work. Although the White House said Judge Sotomayor earned income in 1983, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, Alicia Maxey Greene, initially said that the office did not allow prosecutors to charge for outside work. Generally, they were only allowed to help friends and family for free on a case-by-case basis.

Several former members of the office said they remembered the policy as being quite clear. “We were expressly prohibited from having a law practice on the side,” said Katharine Law, a friend of the judge who worked with her at the time.

But District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said subsequently that his spokeswoman had been wrong and that the office had been quite liberal at the time in approving outside work by staff, even if they charged fees.

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