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WhiteHouse.gov Transparency? Not In Supreme Court Pick

(Pace University)

For an administration that claims to be "the most open and transparent in history," President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday leaves something to be desired.

The White House posted a reasonably detailed background document on its Web site, which mentions a series of cases that she heard as a judge. But there are no hyperlinks or details.

Among the mentions of specific cases: an injunction against Major League Baseball owners, United States v. Quattrone (dealing with the release of juror's names), United States v. Reimer (an alleged Nazi concentration camp guard), Lin v. Gonzales (a Chinese woman seeking asylum).

White House aides obviously read Sotomayor's opinions as part of their vetting process, so why not post them publicly? Reading the full text of a court opinion gives a much clearer picture of a judge's reasoning than a few excerpted words can, and few average Americans have access to expensive Lexis/Nexis or Westlaw accounts. Plus, it would it be a useful -- and unique -- exercise in civic education.

Fortunately, SCOTUSblog.com partially filled the gap with a summary of some of the judge's appellate opinions in civil cases (#1 and #2).

(By way of background, here's more from CBSNews.com on the Obama administration's transparency efforts at the 100-day mark, and a look at the openness of WhiteHouse.gov.)

Nobody would claim that the White House is necessarily required to post the full text of Sotomayor's opinions. But one might expect "the most open and transparent" presidential administration in history to do it anyway.

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    Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.