It’s fascinating how the letters ‘ACLU’ can be used as a pejorative term whenever referring to the rights of the accused.
Drew Ryce, a friend of Sotomayor’s since law school, remembers visiting her when she was doing “intake” at the office, meeting with police officers to decide what charges should be filed. “It was very easy for a kid [prosecutor] to get pushed around by an old cop,” Ryce said. That day, an officer was urging her to not only file drug charges against a man who had been smoking marijuana in a doorway, but to add assault charges, saying the man had attacked him when he and his partner walked up.
“Did you sustain any injuries?” Sotomayor asked the officer, who replied that he had been cut on his knuckles. “We’ll just go with the drug charges,” the young prosecutor said, Ryce recalled. “She didn’t go all ACLU on the guy,” agreeing to file drug charges, but she also didn’t defer to “the system” and make a case out of scraped knuckles.
By 1984, when Sotomayor left the prosecutor’s office for private practice, “she was a far better litigator . . . she could take over a courtroom,” Cardi said. “She saw the impact that crime had on our society . . . she thought a lot about how we address it. . . . As you get older and more experienced, it gets more complicated. You see shades of gray. I think she began to see these were complicated cases, they are not as simple as crime and punishment.”