"I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate." This quote by Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, is not exactly something you want to hear out of a potential Supreme Court Justice. Aren't judges supposed to take an objective look at the facts rather than let their "sympathies and prejudices" dictate their rulings? Aren't they supposed to judge based on the Constitution? Like most of America, I know very little about this woman, but my initial findings don't give me much indication that Sotomayor will interpret the Constitution as it is written. Read this speech and see for yourself.
In her speech, Sotomayor goes on to say that we need "to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making." I thought justice was supposed to be blind. If that's the case then why does it make a difference if it's a man, woman, black, white, asian etc. on the bench? She makes an argument for different genders and ethnic groups having representation in the courts equal to their percentage of the overall population. I'm not saying that it would be a good thing for the Supreme Court to be made up entirely of black men or white women, but doesn't her advocacy for diversity on the bench undermine the very principle of impartiality upon which the law is meant to be interpreted? I don't understand it.
What does she mean when she refers to "differences we will and are making"? Is there currently a set of laws on the books that significantly undermine a particular group's ability to succeed or compete in this country? Can a Hispanic man not take out a loan, buy a house or go to college in the United States? Do black women have trouble doing these things because the law prohibits them from doing so? I don't believe it does, so why must the courts "measure the differences"? Don't get me wrong, there are definitely groups of people who face socioeconomic disparities and sit on the margins of society. However, these disparities are more often than not a result of cultural and personal factors, not legal. It seems to me that Ms. Sotomayor seeks to give certain groups a legal advantage so as to undermine the cultural and personal factors that exist. The law should provide a framework of equal opportunity, not tilt it in favor of the politically favored.
The Supreme Court does not suggest, as Ms. Sotomayor says, that judges let their "opinions, sympathies and prejudices" influence their rulings when "appropriate." In fact, judges are never supposed to let such factors influence their decisions. Their job is to interpret the law impartially. How does letting ones opinions, sympathies and prejudices keep one impartial? I haven't formed a solid opinion yet, but right now she's not gaining favor in my book.
** Update ** 5/27/2009
Great article from WSJ about Sotomayor. The author says about some judges he mentions within the article that "these men saw themselves as judges first and ethnic representatives second." I think that says a lot. Sotomayor doesn't seem to see herself that way though.
Check out the Thinkers Daily Reading List for your everyday source of all things you need to know.