Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sotomayor Continued

Some prominent conservatives who are not holding an elected position n government, like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, have accused 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor of being a racist. They base this accusation on a speech she delivered at the Berkeley Campus of the University of California.

Sotomayor was talking about the complex role one's life experiences might play on the court. She expressed some doubt about another judge's aspiration - that judges "transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law," is "possible in all or even most cases. ... Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address."

A racist would say people of a particular race or ethnic group all think alike and of course in an inferior manner). Obama's Supreme Court nominee, however, makes no such claim. One's racial background, she says, may play a role in the thought process but it by no means plays the only role:

"I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging."

The conservatives who claim she is a racist, however, do not cite those passages since they help explain the "offending" boldfaced passage:

"Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Nor do they cite the following passage, which notes that two very wise justices nevertheless upheld sex and race-based discrimination. "Personal experiences," Sotomayor said, "affect the facts that judges choose to see." Sotomayor said that she is not, however, willing to let her background prejudice an outcome in any judicial decision. "My hope," she said, "is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar." She wants to use her experiences to help her rise above them.

The opposition to Sotomayor's nomination has taken an ugly turn. Remarks about her choice of food and her name pronunciation serve only to hurt the Republican Party by reinforcing the perception that the Republican Party is the anti-Hispanic party (leave aside the anti-immigrant party) nor does it does not help them make the legitimate case against providing illegal immigrants amnesty because it allows the advocates for illegal immigrants to recast the fight against amnesty as a fight against Hispanics.

Couldn't the Republicans question Sotomayor about her judicial philosophy or the decisions she reached on the Court of Appeals and stay away from the racist innuendo?

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