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What Is the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund Hiding?

2:45 PM, Jun 19, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Yesterday both the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Cesar Perales, the president and general counsel of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), asking him "to provide documents related to [Sonia Sotomayor's] membership" in that organization.

Sotomayor served on the board of directors for PRLDEF 1980-1992 and is described by the New York Times as being a "top policy maker" for the organization. PRLDEF has a collection of memos and board materials at Hunter College in New York which THE WEEKLY STANDARD's sources have reviewed, but the documents abruptly end around 1987. A source went to New York earlier this month and spoke with a member of the organization's communications staff regarding Sotomayor post-1987 materials. The PRLDEF member said that documents from 1987-1992 would not be made available to anyone, including the press, the Senate, or the White House. The PRLDEF employee also indicated that "people are already upset with us for releasing the Hunter College documents" and that the rest of the collection would remain under lock and key at a warehouse in New Jersey.

One reason PRLDEF and Sotomayor supporters might be upset about the release of any additional documents is that Sotomayor's 1981 memo on the death penalty has already attracted negative attention for Sotomayor's controversial claim that "capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society" and that "our present perspective on the meaning of our values in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the state of humanistic thinking in the world judge capital punishment as a violation of those values." Sotomayor did not originally include the memo in her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, but later added it after it was discovered by judicial interest groups.

However, it now seems that Sotomayor has access to the records, considering she gave the judiciary committee four additional memos this week from PRLDEF, two from 1987 and two from 1988. So what is the PRLDEF hiding -- and will they comply with the request from the Senate Judiciary Committee?

Full letter from Leahy and Sessions after the jump...

June 18, 2009

Mr. Cesar A. Perales
President and General Counsel
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
99 Hudson Street, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10013

Dear Mr. Perales:

We write as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to follow up on Judge Sonia Sotomayor's request for you to provide documents related to her membership in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). As you know, on May 26, 2009, the President designated Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States. In order to assist the Committee in conducting a thorough and timely review of Judge Sotomayor's record, we request that PRLDEF expedite its review and supplement the documents Judge Sotomayor has already provided to the Committee.

According to her response to the Committee's questionnaire, Judge Sotomayor was a member of PRLDEF from 1980 until her resignation in 1992, serving at various points in time as Vice President of PRLDEF's Board of Directors, and as Chairperson of the Litigation and Education Committees and from 1984-1985 as Special Vice-Chairperson, in 1986 as Second Vice-Chairperson, and from 1987-1988 as First Vice-Chairperson. One document produced by Judge Sotomayor indicates she also served as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Reorganization and Long-Range Planning.

In her June 15, 2009 letter to the Committee, Judge Sotomayor stated: "In responding to the Committee Questionnaire, I thoroughly reviewed my files to provide all responsive documents in my possession. I also requested searches of the files maintained by PRLDEF, which required accessing the organization's archives and therefore required more time. As a result of that search, I have received several additional documents related to my work for PRLDEF, which are attached." We are writing to ask you to expedite your response to Judge Sotomayor's request, and to ensure that your response includes the following documents from the time period from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 1992:

A. All documents relating in whole or part to matters of public policy, including but not limited to, reports, memoranda, or policy statements, including any drafts of such documents, written by, edited by, or prepared under the supervision of Judge Sotomayor, including those related to policy initiatives undertaken or contemplated by PRLDEF;

B. All documents, including any drafts of such documents, related to any litigation in which the PRLDEF was a party, filed an amicus brief, or was otherwise involved, written by, edited by, or prepared under the supervision of Judge Sotomayor, including but not limited to all documents relating in whole or part to matters of public policy prepared during the time period Judge Sotomayor was Chairperson of the Litigation Committee;

C. All documents relating in whole or part to matters of public policy, including but not limited to, reports, memoranda, or policy statements, including any drafts of such documents, related to the Board of Directors, the Litigation and Education Committees, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Reorganization and Long-Range Planning produced during the period she served on each entity, respectively. These documents include but are not limited to, meeting minutes, board books and summaries from the time she served on each entity.

We request that you deliver four (4) copies of these documents to the Judiciary Committee as soon as possible so that the Committee can prepare for Judge Sotomayor's July 13 confirmation hearing. The Committee will reimburse you with any costs for searching archives and copying documents.

Sincerely,

PATRICK LEAHY JEFF SESSIONS
Chairman Ranking Member