Justice Sotomayor recuses from Colorado 'faithless electors' Supreme Court case

Sotomayor says she has friendship with respondent in suit, Polly Baca
Posted at 12:59 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 14:59:37-04

DENVER – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday recused herself from the Colorado “faithless electors” case because of her relationship with Polly Baca, one of the original respondents in the lawsuit.

Scott S. Harris, one of the Supreme Court clerks, wrote to counsel for Colorado and for the respondents in the case on Tuesday informing them of Sotomayor’s recusal.

“The Justice believes that her impartiality might reasonably be questioned due to her friendship with respondent Polly Baca. … The initial conflict check conducted in Justice Sotomayor’s Chambers did not identify this potential conflict,” Harris wrote.

The Colorado case, Colorado Department of State v. Baca, is also no longer consolidated with the similar Washington case, Chiafalo v. Washington, according to the Supreme Court docket for the case, which also notes: “Justice Sotomayor took no part in the consideration of this order.”

The case is set for oral arguments on Tuesday, April 28. According to the docket, one hour will still be allowed for oral arguments in the Colorado case.

Sotomayor’s relationship with Polly Baca, who is not related to another respondent in the case, Micheal Baca, has been well-documented over the years. When Sotomayor was confirmed as a Justice in 2009, Baca called her to tell her “how proud and honored we are,” The Denver Post reported at the time.

“Polly, you know how much I love you, and how much I love your senators, who both voted for me,” The Post quoted her as responding.

In 2013, Sotomayor joined Baca and others at the Auraria Events Center for a discussion, and according to Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sotomayor recounted meeting Baca “when [she] was a baby – more than 25 years ago.”

Sotomayor’s recusal means there will be one fewer justice – and one who is considered more liberal than conservative – to decide the “faithless electors” case.

Colorado asked the Supreme Court in October to review the Baca case after a federal appeals court last August ruled in a 2-1 decision that the state’s presidential electors do not have to follow state rules and vote for the presidential candidate who received the most votes in the state.

Twenty-two other states signed friend of the court briefs in November to support Colorado. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Secretary of State Jena Griswold – both Democrats – have said they hoped the court rules in Colorado’s favor.