In the linked Slate article by Emily Bazelon, Bazelon lays out how Sotomayor can be very convincing; in the cited case, she convinced a conservative and liberal judge, both of who started out opposed to her view, to switch sides and sign on to her decision in a case where "empathy" would lead you to believe one might side for the trucker in this case over the off-duty cop:
But what's striking, of course, is that she persuaded them to undo a verdict in a case that a jury saw as rife with police abuse of power. "You read this unanimous opinion, and it would seem to be the Republican judge who is driving this decision that she just signed on to. When in fact it was exactly the opposite," one observer said.
The other two judges had decided to rule to uphold a jury verdict and a $600,000 award for damages for a trucker who, whatever the merits of his suit (he was found not guilty of assault against the officer, who he got into an altercation with over a payphone, back in the 90s, where trucker Jocks claimed he explained he had an emergency with his truck broken down further up the highway and the cop refused to reliquish the payphone; fight ensues; the cop claims Jocks made no mention of an emergency and started a fight for the phone) seems to have been quite thoroughly punished for a crime it was ultimately determined he didn't commit:
fter his arrest, Jocks was held for 24 hours and ended up having to make 28 court appearances before he was found not guilty of felony assault. He spent $20,000 on legal fees, lost his truck driving job, and had to give up full custody of his daughter, who went to live with her mother, his ex-wife. That dire, black moment on the LIE truly cost him.
Frayster Joe_JP observes that this actually fits in with what we know of Obama, like his upholding of some Bush era atrocities:
Given the mixed feelings some have with recent actions by President Obama (e.g., preventive detention), this should not surprise. In fact, though he was specifically talking about his views on a "living Constitution," Obama in Audacity of Hope suggested his model is Justice Breyer. Someone Rachel Maddow recently suggested was more centrist than liberal (and at times tecnocrat), and various of his opinions can be used to back that up. But, the game has to be played, so she is tarred by the likely subjects when they should be quite happy she was chosen.
Dionne appears to have it quite right. And the last thing we need on the court in this J's opinion is another "law-and-order" type, inclined to "[use her] formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak". Where did you hear those words before? They were Obama's objection to the nomination of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Although O may have been talking about minorities and plaintiffs in cases against large commercial interests, it's worth remembering that the police very much are often the ones who are the strong (such as in the trucker case where, when the off-duty cop had enough, he pulled his gun and put it to Jocks' head), and Sotomayor appeared to have used her formidable skills on his behalf.
Dionne: "And even though they should support her confirmation, liberals would be foolish to embrace Sotomayor as one of their own because her record is clearly that of a moderate. It is highly unlikely that she will push the court to the left."