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Sotomayor Visits Alaska, Tells Congress to Get Along

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Justice Sonia Sotomayor capped off a 10-day tour of Alaska on Sunday with a speech at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Sadly, the Bronx native didn't regale her audience with tales of Grizzly sightings, glacier climbing, or moose hunting, which is what we would have liked to hear about.

But she did have some words of wisdom for her legislative branch counterparts back in Washington, D.C.: You might work together a bit better if you chilled out and got along, just like they do it in the Supreme Court.

Who You Calling Politicized?

Speaking in Fairbanks, Justice Sotomayor rejected claims that the Supreme Court was becoming more politicized, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. In fact, it's just the opposite. The country, not the Supreme Court, is becoming more politically divided, Sotomayor argued. And the country and Congress could learn a thing or two from the Supreme Court.

It's the close relationship of the Supreme Court justices that makes them able to work together and disagree without disrupting Court business. "We understand if we take our disagreements as personal attacks then we won't be able to function as a group," she said, according to ADN. Even biting or sarcastic language in decisions is "borne of passion," Sotomayor explained, and not personal.

To illustrate her point, Justice Sotomayor brought up the obvious: the strong friendship between the late Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Though they rarely agreed on divisive legal issues, "they were the best of friends" nonetheless.

But it's not just RBG who got a shout out from the justice. Sotomayor also praised Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas is the "only justice who knows the names of every employee" in the Court -- and their spouses'.

The Supreme Court in an Election Year

Justice Sotomayor's comments come in the midst of an election cycle that regularly sees the Supreme Court used as a cudgel. Last week, Donald Trump warned that a Clinton Court would undermine Second Amendment rights, while Hillary Clinton has said that Trump-appointed justices would "demolish pillars of the progressive movement."

Sotomayor's comments also come shortly after Justice Ginsburg was widely criticized for insulting Donald Trump and joking that she might have to move to New Zealand if he is elected. "Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office," she said in a later apology. "In the future I will be more circumspect."

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