Sotomayer’s Supposedly “Terrible” Reversal Rate

Ken AshfordSupreme CourtLeave a Comment

Steve Benen addresses this argument:

The conservative Washington Times ran a headline yesterday that read, "Sotomayor reversed 60% by high court." The article quoted a right-wing activist saying, "Her high reversal rate alone should be enough for us to pause and take a good look at her record."

Rachel Maddow had a great segment on this GOP talking point last night, and it's worth keeping in mind as the debate over Sonia Sotomayor's nomination continues, not only because it's likely to be repeated quite a bit, but also because it points to a certain desperation in the judge's detractors.

Sotomayor has been on the appeals court federal bench for over a decade, and during her career, she's written 380 rulings for the 2nd Circuit's majority. Of those 380, five have been considered on appeal to the Supreme Court. And of those five, three have reversed the lower court's decision. That's how the right gets to a 60% reversal rating — three out of five, as opposed to three out of 380.

Of course, if that 60% figure were really scandalous, the right should have balked at the Alito nomination — he had two of his rulings considered by the high court, and both were overturned. (That's a 100% rating! He must have been a horrible judge!)

The irony is, Sotomayor's reversal numbers are actually better than the norm, not worse. Media Matters noted yesterday, "[A]ccording to data compiled by SCOTUSblog, Sotomayor's reported 60 percent reversal rate is lower than the overall Supreme Court reversal rate for all lower court decisions from the 2004 term through the present — both overall and for each individual Supreme Court term."

And yet, conservative media personalities nevertheless continue to tout this as evidence of a Sotomayor weakness, either unaware or unconcerned about how completely wrong the argument is.