Defending the Wise Latina

July 15, 2009 | 50 comments
By

I’m grumpy that Sotomayor didn’t stand by her snark. She should have.

We all know by now what she said. But do you know the context? The context was (at least in one of the iterations; I know she has made the comment more than once and I haven’t tracked all of them down) that she was about to recite a litany of instances where old white men had reached exactly the wrong decision on pretty much every case they considered that involved race or sex discrimination for a hundred years.

We usually give those old white men a pass: cultural conditioning, you know? Simply a product of their times. What did you expect? But do you think that an African American Supreme Court justice would have joined the majority in Plessy v. Ferguson? A wise old African American would have, based on his (or her) life experience, reached a better decision than the wise old white men who actually ruled in that case.

I don’t think wise Latinas are inherently smarter or better or whatever than wise old white men. But they may make better judgments. If a case gets to the Supreme Court, it obviously isn’t an open or shut issue. It is a case where two core rights are in conflict and it is difficult to determine which should win out. Which right should prevail? And how do we decide? It is sheer lunacy to think that one’s personal experiences and background won’t come into play when making that judgment call. And in that process, I want (at least) a few people who are used to being in the losing group, the disenfranchised group, the underclass, the outsiders, the poor, etc., making that decision. People who are less likely to have the ability to identify with the underdog are, I think, less likely to fairly apply and evaluate the law. I want people like Thomas, who went through those outsider experiences. (I’ve listened to his autobiography. He sounds like Eeyore, even when narrating the happiest moments of his life. We need people like that!) I want people like Sotomayor. I want people like Scalia, who said this in his nomination hearing:

Because when a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position.

In other words, he draws on his (once-removed) immigrant experience in order to be sure that he is considering the perspective of all of the parties who come before him. That’s what I want in judges. And if they end up in places as different as Scalia/Thomas and Sotomayor, so be it.

I think this is what Obama meant by wanting a judge with empathy–the kind of thinking embodied in Scalia’s statement above and Sotomayor’s wise Latina comment. He got a lot of grief for that comment, but I can’t remember Bush getting any for saying this about choosing a new justice:

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with peoples’ hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.

I do, too. Moreover, I think it is a gospel principle that has long been ignored, but, thankfully, thrust into the spotlight by Elder Ballard’s Counseling With Our Councils. In it, he writes repeatedly about the “unique insights, experiences, and abilities” that various members bring to councils and the importance of listening to them. Relative to American constitutional law, Church policies are fairly black and white (not to mention that little bit about access to divine revelation). And yet even in that context, he recognizes the need of those in decision-making capacities to surround themselves with other people of varied backgrounds and listen to them. He repeatedly and specifically mentions the role that women should play in sharing a different perspective in the councils in which they participate.

(Note: I’m not, in this post, defending everything Sotomayor has ever said, written, ruled on, or thought about. I really don’t know that much about her rulings or other speeches. I just wish she’d stuck to her guns on “wise Latinas.”)

50 Responses to Defending the Wise Latina

  1. Frank McIntyre on July 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    “I don’t think wise Latinas are inherently smarter or better or whatever than wise old white men. But they may make better judgments.”

    Probably about half the time :).

  2. Hunter on July 15, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Great analysis, Julie M. Smith. This is good stuff.

    This principle that judges bring their personal experience to the judgment seat is the same argument that (often conservative) pundits use to extol the jury system.

  3. Brian Duffin on July 15, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Great post, Julie. I like what you wrote.

    I support Judge Sotomayor and think she will bring a fresh voice and perspective to the court. At this point, I have not found anything that would prevent me from supporting her nomination.

  4. John Mansfield on July 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    After listening to a quarter hour of the hearings yesterday, the question I was left with is: Is Sonia Sotomajor the world’s slowest-speaking Puerto Rican?

  5. DavidH on July 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I agree. (Warning: potential threadjack: please ignore) I think the same things could be said about the leading councils of a church. I wonder, for example, whether the treatment of racial (or gender) issues in a church might be affected by the racial (or gender) composition of its leaders. (End of potential threadjack)

    I think our Anglo-American judicial structure recognizes this to a degree with our jury system, under which a defendant has a right to be tried before a jury of his or her “peers”.

  6. Rio on July 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I think empathy and diversity are always assets in any organization. However, I think that in a judicial tribunal I would rather have an individual aware of their background so as to try and avoid their own biases than that they should consciously advocate for people who are similar to them.

    This is because it is easy to cross the line and become a legislator rather than a judge and it is the province of the legislature to make laws—including ones that a particular judge might think is bad (and even harmful to their own political interests), but nonetheless constitutional and valid.

  7. Brian Duffin on July 15, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    John #4: I was surprised by her slow, deliberate manner of speaking as well. She is speaking to politicians, though, which probably necessitates slow speech so they will understand what she is saying.

  8. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 15, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    So was the US Supreme court wrong in 1954 when 9 white men unanimously struck down racial segregation in public schools as a denial of equal protection of the law?

    Do we have to have Mormons and Amish serving on the Supreme Court in order to get justice for Mormon and Amish litigants?

    The fact is that courts at the trial level are designed to allow the litigants on both sides to present whatever evidence they believe is relevant to the questions before a court. That includes offering the perspective of minority people who are affected in a unique way by certain laws, regulations, or policies.

    If we adopt the view that only a Latina can fully comprehend the interaction of the facts and the law affecting a HIspanic person, we are also saying that the Latina must be presumed to lack a full understanding of the situation of an Asian American like myself!

    Furthermore, questions of fact are almost all decided in trial courts. When cases go to a Court of Appeals or Supreme Court, the factual determinations made by the jury or trial judge are generally taken as settled. Only questions of legal interpretation are up for grabs. To claim that there is a different way to interpret the law for a Hispanic person than for an African-American or a Filipino-American rejects the very idea of equal justice under the law.

    Furthermore, the vast majority of cases heard in the courts have no relationship to the ethnic affiliation of the litigants. Is there a unique Hispanic way to interpret the Clean Water Act or the Endangered Species Act? The laws on securities fraud or racketeering? The laws governing the armed forces?

    President Obama as President is certainly entitled to nominate a justice of the Supreme court based on any arbitrary criteria he chooses. But we should be skeptical that Sonya Sotomayor would be more favorably disposed to our particular interests than to those of our adversaries. A judge’s empathy is a subjective experience, not a rule by which we as citizens can guide our own conduct in our relations with our neighbors. A judge with empathy ought to care about victims of crime as well as the perpetrators, but the most beneficial way to demonstrate that caring is to enforce the law consistently and fairly. The essence of unfairness is an arbitrary variation in the “justice” handed down from the bench.

  9. Kaimi Wenger on July 15, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    “So was the US Supreme court wrong in 1954 when 9 white men unanimously struck down racial segregation in public schools as a denial of equal protection of the law?”

    The fact that it took them until 1954 is quite possibly related to the fact that it was nine white men . . .

  10. Peter LLC on July 15, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    If we adopt the view that only a Latina can fully comprehend the interaction of the facts and the law affecting a HIspanic person

    Since no one is advocating that anyone adopt that view…what was the point again?

  11. Rio on July 15, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Here, here Raymond Takashi Swenson.

    My problem with “empathy” as I think some mean the term (again, I believe it is a plus in any organization if we are talking about it generically) is that everyone already empathizes with people like themselves. After all, that’s what empathy means.

    It is impossible to get true diversity on a court of nine justices. If we want it to become a legislative body, we should up the number to 435, take away life tenure and let the people vote for them. But I like to believe that is possible for a judge to apply existing law in an expert fashion and arrive at a different result than the same person would arrive at were he or she a dictator. That’s what impartiality and respect for separation of powers is all about.

    By pointing out results we all agree with (Brown) versus results we all disagree with (Plessy) we obscure the issue of how a change should properly be affected. Would we rather live in a dictatorship where the dictators always made decisions we agree with, or a society that allows agency but also permits bad results? After the Dred Scott decision, Abraham Lincoln said that if the court became a group of oligarchs then there would be no point to having a republic anymore. So judicial activism hasn’t always given us liberal rulings; in 1857 it gave us a terribly racist decision that upended congressional prerogatives to create the Missouri Compromise a generation earlier.

  12. christopher j on July 15, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    @11 “It is impossible to get true diversity on a court of nine justices.”

    Maybe if Sotomayor was a mix of races. We could make sure that each justice was 1/64 Native American, etc.

  13. Jeremy on July 15, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I agree with your post whole-heartedly, Julie. But I think the reason Sotomayor is being so reserved in her responses (not to mention SLOW — !hay virgin! ?Quepasaconestachicapuertoriquenaquehablatan DESPACIO?) is simply to get through the process with as little drama as possible and give her opponents zero sound bites to harp about. In other words, I think she’s trying to avoid issuing any statements during her confirmation that conservatives will pounce on in the same way they’ve pounced on bits from her speeches.

    Kaimi: your #9 is right on.

  14. queuno on July 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    It’s the first rule of job interviews when you know the job is basically yours: Say nothing controversial.

    She just needs to say whatever she needs to, to get the job.

    Then she can go back and give 15 more speeches and clarify and stick it to Sessions-Kyl-Hatch even more.

  15. queuno on July 15, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    (By the way, I would hate if these weren’t on TV, but if there was *no* TV coverage, and *no* radio coverage, and reporters had 2 inches to fill on this … it’d be over by now. If an old white man pontificates in the forest, and no one’s around to hear, does anyone care?)

  16. Cameron on July 15, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Lady Justice is blind. It’s ironic that MLK’s dream still really hasn’t come to fruition.

  17. Nan on July 15, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Some friends and I were having nearly this exact conversation yesterday. I appreciate the reasoned position you have outlined here. You have mirrored my opinions closely, particularly with the recognition that when a case goes to that particular Court, it is because there are two claimants each thinking their own right is more “constitutional” and that yes, those rights might be in conflict with one another. These questions are very seldom cut and dried, and the Court’s decisions end up having an affect on broad numbers of people. Empathy, unintended consequences and long-term considerations MUST come into play in such a decision-making process.

    And doesn’t a person only call it “judicial activism” if it overturns consequences THEY prefer? Liberals can argue activism too–since Roberts has become chief justice and the court has moved to the right, several important cases involving worker rights v. corporations have been decided in favor of big business nearly every time. What about the dismantling of basic human rights that Bush administration constitutional lawyers greenlighted the US’s torture program with? I bet a woman would have a lot to say about that. Desegration provides an interesting history lesson, but what about the current, and sometimes disturbing trends, in our own time? (With the full acknowledgement that same-gender marriage and abortion are two of these.)

    A person’s culture/race does affect their entire world view. In the #8 comment, there is an implication that unless the court is viewing immigration issues, background would have little bearing on Sotomeyor’s perceptions. Environmental decisions are given as an example, but minority cultures, in general, have safeguarded the environment better than their white counterparts. Nor does a person’s culture or race stereotype them into a certain world view. Clarence Thomas is a perfect example of a person who has voted conservative in nearly every case, even as many from his own race are liberals–even when it came to Equal Employment-type statues.

    Think your culture doesn’t come to bear on almost every action you make, and that it would actually be possible to seperate this core of who you are from your judgements? If you were raised in the church, or have been a member any length of time how easy is it for you to just hang up your culture when you go to work? Moreover, how appropriate is it to do so?

  18. kevinf's Avatar on July 15, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Great post, Julie, and it gets to what I was liking about Sotomayor’s nomination. Kaimi and Jeremy, as I have been reading recently about some 19th century supreme court decisions, I have cringed at some of the decisions, but no less so than for the statements coming out of the mouths of some of our Presidents and other leading political figures of that era. I think it was a given that Pres. Obama would appoint a woman to the court, but by appointing someone with a Hispanic heritage, we go a long ways towards leavening the lump, as it were.

  19. Clayton on July 15, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Kaimi,

    According to Senator Durbin, the reason why it took those white men so long to make that Supreme Court ruling, especially if the justices were appointed by republicans, was because it was not in their DNA to look out for the plight of minorities. You must be on to something there.

    Here is the quote from Senator Durbin during the hearings yesterday:

    “This has been an interesting exercise today for many of us who’ve been on the Judiciary Committee for a while, because the people new to it may not know, but there’s been a little bit of a role reversal here. The Democratic side is now largely speaking in favor of our president’s nominee. The other side is asking questions more critical.

    And in the previous two Supreme Court nominees, the tables were turned. There were more critical questions coming from the Democratic side.

    And there’s also another contrast, obvious contrast. The two previous nominees that were considered while I was on the committee, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, were — are white males. And, of course, you come to this as a minority woman candidate.

    When we asked questions of the white male nominees of a Republican president, we were basically trying to find out whether — to make sure that they would go far enough in understanding the plight of minorities, because clearly that was not in their DNA. The questions being asked of you from the other side primarily are along the lines of, will you go too far in siding with minorities?”

    Speaking of context, here is the full link:

    http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2009/07/sen_dick_durbin_questions_soni.html

  20. Jana on July 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Her confirmation is already opposed by a greater number of Americans than support her. If she’d stuck by her remarks, then it is likely that her numbers would have gotten even worse. Since the “wise Latina” remark and her participation in the Ricci case are likely the only two things most average folk know about her, it’s ridiculous from a political standpoint that she would stand by the claim.

    So far during the hearings, she hasn’t managed to distinguish herself as a great legal mind, which I think only serves to put greater emphasis on identity over qualification.

    We’d be hearing much more substantive and compelling testimony from a Diane Wood, who is a brilliant liberal legal mind, but is unfortunately, the wrong skin color.

  21. sscenter on July 15, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    I hate to sound like a white male but I am more worried about how she will rule than if she has the proper sexual organs or ethnicity. Her record thus far in her career is very liberal. If that is what an individual would prefer than the fact that she is a latina woman is just wonderful. If one’s ideology is to the right it doesn’t matter what gender or ethnicity she is.

    I am always confused by Latter-Day Saints who would support liberal judges when the key issues of abortion and gay marriage would surely swing in the opposite direction than what the church teaches it should.

  22. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 15, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Re #17: Exactly how does being Hispanic, Black, or Asian in ancestry affect how one interprets the Superfund liability allocation provisions at 42 USC 9607 (as the Supreme court did recently)? Or do you think that a person in an ethnic minority has some kind of superior instinct about the environment that entitled him or her to ignore the law and create a new rule from scratch?

    Re #9: The justices who decided Dred Scott were not the justices who decided Plessy v. Ferguson who were not the justices who decided Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. One of the relatively justices in 1954 was Chief Justice Earl Warren. Before he was Governor of California, back when he was Attorney General, he testified in support of the mass internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans, most of them native born citizens, without any hearing or evidence of actual commission of espionage or any crime. He obviously changed in his sensitivity to ethnic minorities between 1942 and 1954. His being a white male did not prevent him from developing that “empathy”.

    Of course, the simple truth is that the plain language of the 14th Amendment was obviously twisted by the Plessy court. It should take no genius to conclude that, when one race imposes segregated schools and other segregated public accommodations on another race, it is a denial of Equal Protection of the Law. And unfortunately, Warren’s opinion, perhaps in order to achieve its unanimous support, did not simply repudiate the perversity of the “separate but equal” standard, but instead argued that “separate but equal” had just not panned out in practice, that school segregation was not necessarily unconstitutional on its face, but was unconstitutional as applied in the US in the 1950s.

    The Brown case created a myth that judges with empathy for suffering humanity must wrest the Constitution so it serves the people. An honest court would have simply said, “We ignored the will of the sovereign people, expressed unequivocally in the 14th Amendment, for 90 years [largely reflecting the racist views of Southern Democrats who affected many appointments to the Court]. We must restore the rule of law, and not let the opinions of fallible humans in the courts interfere with the plain intent of the people.” The guarantee of liberty is NOT appointing soft-hearted judges to our courts. It is judges obeying the laws that the people enact. Millions of American voters, in the aggregate, are wiser than any nine judges. The duty of judges is to determine what the people said through their elected representatives, in the Constitution and amendments and in legislation, and obey US. The authority is not inherent in the judges, it is inherent in the People and the laws we enact.

  23. Geoff B on July 15, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    I actually support Sotomayor’s nomination and believe she is about the best we’re going to get from Obama. So, let’s get these hearings over with.

    But even she admits the “wise Latina” remark was not wise.

    Question, Julie: how about a “wise black man” like Clarence Thomas, who was raised desperately poor and suffered discrimination along the way but is opposed to the liberal agenda? Do you think he has made “better judgments?” I’m guessing no, but you may pleasantly surprise me.

  24. sscenter on July 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Actually Geoff B, I agree. Obama is never going to nominate anyone that I would every support so why waste any more time.

  25. Julie M. Smith on July 15, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Geoff B, I specifically mentioned Thomas and my thinking about him in the post.

    sscenter writes, “I am always confused by Latter-Day Saints who would support liberal judges when the key issues of abortion and gay marriage would surely swing in the opposite direction than what the church teaches it should.”

    One of the many reasons that I would not vote for McCain/Palin was that I wanted to be sure that the next picker-of-Supreme-Court-justices would pick those more likely to ensure that reproductive freedom is protected. I take the church’s modestly pro-choice stance seriously, and I want women who fall under the exceptions that the church outlines to be able to find safe and legal abortions.

  26. Geoff B on July 15, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Julie, sorry, totally spaced and missed that entire paragraph. Comes from reading on a Blackberry. My apologies.

  27. Julie M. Smith on July 15, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Geoff B, no problem.

  28. sscenter on July 15, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    By “reproductive freedom” do you mean abortion? If so, when does this “freedom” need to not be protected? When the child is only a few weeks old, yet has fully functioning organs including brain waves or up until the end of pregnancy when its brain is sucked out of its head while its body writhes in pain and it screams in agony? Clarification on this would be helpful.

    Calling the churches position “modestly pro-choice” very much borders on a complete untruth. When the church absolutely forbids about 97 percent of all current abortions, I don’t know how this can be described as prochoice. Even on the three percent where there is some leeway there is nothing to indicate there is acceptance or encouragement.

    I guess part of my problem with the post is that the writer admits to not knowing anything about S’s record as a judge, she just really likes one quote that the judge made on a few occasions. If we are admitting to being so uniformed about the candidate how can our opinions be taken seriously at all?

  29. Julie M. Smith on July 15, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    sscenter wrote, “If so, when does this “freedom” need to not be protected? . . . Clarification on this would be helpful.”

    Try here:

    http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues/abortion

    “Calling the churches position “modestly pro-choice” very much borders on a complete untruth.”

    Run our policy by a Catholic or evangelical and see what they call it.

    “If we are admitting to being so uniformed about the candidate how can our opinions be taken seriously at all?”

    Uh, maybe because I wasn’t stating an overall opinion on Sotomayor (as I have none), but rather giving my opinion on the veracity of a specific statement.

  30. E on July 15, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Nice try Julie, but I think she didn’t try to defend her words because they are indefensible. I don’t know, but I suppose she is well qualified for the court. It doesn’t mean her “wise latina” remarks aren’t embarrassing, cringeworthy, or just plain wrong.

  31. sscenter on July 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I am familiar with the statement. Again, a statement that condemns 97% of all abortions is only prochoice in the mind of the person who desperately needs the church to feel the way they do. If you like I could link you an article on cognitive-dissonance which would explain what you are experiencing very well.

    Really, it would just be better to say the church feels one way, I feel another but there is this sliver of an area where we agree. That would be more accurate than calling the church prochoice to any degree.

  32. DavidH on July 15, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    As I read the statement, the Church counsels its members not to participate in abortions, except in limited circumstances (which circumstances do not fit within, say, Roman Catholic teachings). In addition, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the LDS Church, according to the statement, has taking no position on legislation or demonstrations concerning abortion–which I take it to mean that the Church has no official position on what the legal ramifications of abortion should be.

    Thus, I see no cognitive dissonance in taking a pro-choice position as a legal matter (i.e., no criminalization of abortion), and a pro-life position as a moral matter. Any more than I see it as cognitive dissonance to favor noncriminalization of pre-marital consensual sex, while favoring abstinence as a moral matter.

    Please note that I am pro-life as a legal and moral matter. I am simply say I can respect those who differentiate the two.

  33. Ugly Mahana on July 15, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Could a wise old white man would make better decisions than a court full of latinas?

  34. Geoff B on July 15, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    One other point: I’m not much of a fan of the viewpoint that judges should represent every possible flavor of life experience. There are only nine judges. What about the Mormon judge or the JW judge or the black/American Indian lesbian judge?

    But having said all that, I would like to point out that I am holding out hope Sotomayor may turn out to be the conservatives’ Souter, in other words a conservative or moderate in disguise. Based on what I’ve read, she is not a doctrinaire liberal by any stretch. I think we conservatives may be pleasantly surprised by her.

  35. Starfoxy on July 16, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Geoff B- I don’t think anyone is saying that the judges should be representative of the population (thereby requiring a different judge for every flavor of human), but rather that they should not be a homogenous group.

    One must assume that there is a large number of suitably qualified candidates and if we have our pick then surely we can afford to pick someone who is different from what we already have.

  36. Peter LLC on July 16, 2009 at 5:19 am

    He obviously changed in his sensitivity to ethnic minorities between 1942 and 1954. His being a white male did not prevent him from developing that “empathy”.

    The evidence points just as easily towards another conclusion: Earl Warren was basically a nice guy, but when push came to shove as it did in wartime California, he went with the flow and sent Japanese-Americans packing, and that regret for his earlier spinelessness rather than any particular empathetic development fueled his later activism.

  37. TMD on July 16, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Perhaps if her comments were not so overtly self-serving they would be easier to accept. To campaign for ascriptive affirmative action under the cover of diversity is one thing; to campaign for it and then be one of its principal beneficiaries is quite another.

    But all this goes to one of the key problems with much of the discussion of diversity these days: most of the benefits go to individual members of “under-represented groups” who come from more privileged backgrounds (or, for those further along in years, those who have years of special treatment behind them, like Ms. Sotomayor) and most of the harms go to individual white males of more marginal backgrounds. [This has been particularly evident in my experience of the academic job market these past two years.] The rich and privileged get more rich and privileged, the bien pensant see more ascriptive diversity and think society is better, and social mobility declines rather than increases.

  38. Jamie S on July 16, 2009 at 9:39 am

    If the church condemns 97% of abortions, that means they allow 3%. Shouldn’t those 3% be legal and safe?

  39. Wilfried on July 16, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Great post, Julie, and interesting discussion. Thanks!
    Pointed answer in # 29. “Modestly pro-choice” could also be called “nuanced pro-life”.

  40. PaulM on July 16, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Julie basically excuses Sotomayor’s position by appealing to the argument that two wrongs actually do make a right. I wonder if she lets her own progeny get away with that one.

  41. Ken on July 18, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Jeremy (#13): “I think she’s trying to avoid issuing any statements during her confirmation that conservatives will pounce on in the same way they’ve pounced on bits from her speeches.”

    Right. Nobody has any problem with any of her speeches in their entirety. We’re just concerned about little bits and pieces. http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NjFkZjk1NmI2YzlkZjZhNzYzY2U0OTc1ZjIzOTJiYjk=

    Jana (#20): “Her confirmation is already opposed by a greater number of Americans than support her.”

    Now, if only she were running for office! ;-D

    Geoff B. (#23): “[H]ow about a ‘wise black man’ like Clarence Thomas, who was raised desperately poor and suffered discrimination along the way but is opposed to the liberal agenda?”

    Unfortunately, Justice Thomas’s life—despite the poverty and racism he experienced—failed to teach him the proper lessons to equip him to sit on the Court. Overcoming poverty and racism aren’t enough; one must also have the appropriate political orientation. Two-out-of-three won’t suffice. (It’s kinda like how law school is supposed to turn aspiring prosecutors into good little defense attorneys after they’re taught how unfair the system is—how the only reason the justice system exists as currently constituted is simply to stick it to “The Little Guy.”) ;-D

    Starfoxy (#35): “Geoff B- I don’t think anyone is saying that the judges should be representative of the population (thereby requiring a different judge for every flavor of human), but rather that they should not be a homogenous group.”

    Oh, I think homogeneity is FINE, as long as it’s the right KIND of homogeneity: the sort of homogeneity that embraces intolerance masquerading as tolerance; the kind of homogeneity that embraces “diversity”—as long as one thinks like one is SUPPOSED to think; and so on. ;-D

  42. annegb on July 18, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I like her. I think the focus on her comment is party politics. We could find something to criticize in every politician.

  43. annegb on July 18, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    ….um, oh yeah, she’s not a politician. Well no judge is perfect, either.

  44. Ken on July 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    annegb: “I like her. I think the focus on her comment is party politics.”

    Right. Except there was more than one “comment”: there was [at least one] whole speech-full. ;-D

  45. Brad Kramer on July 18, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Having a life experience that informs your perspectives on the law and on individual cases is fine, as long as you’re a (old white) man like Sam Alito. The problems arise when you have the wrong kind of life experience like, oh just to choose a random example, that of a female with Puerto Rican heritage. That kind of life experience is bad to bring to the bench, because, being something other than neutral (i.e. white male), it will skew and distort your perspective. And that’s bad. Real bad. The takeaway? Not all life experiences are created equal — at least in the sense that all (free, property holding, white) men are created equal. Says so right in the Constitution.

  46. Ken on July 19, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Brad Kramer: “Having a life experience that informs your perspectives on the law and on individual cases is fine, as long as you’re a (old white) man like Sam Alito.”

    I forget. Who nominated the Court’s second African American justice?

    Brad Kramer: “The problems arise when you have the wrong kind of life experience like, oh just to choose a random example, that of a female with Puerto Rican heritage.”

    Or that of an African American who rose from abject poverty (and didn’t even grow up speaking standard English) like Mr. Justice Thomas? (Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot: he doesn’t count because of his political orientation and because of who nominated him.) Whatever anyone’s reservations about Judge Sotomayor may be, I haven’t heard anyone say that their concerns center on the fact that she’s Puertoriquena.

    Brad Kramer: “That kind of life experience is bad to bring to the bench, because, being something other than neutral (i.e. white male), it will skew and distort your perspective. And that’s bad. Real bad.”

    And once she’s confirmed, she can join Mr. Justice Thomas with a skewed perspective. Heck, who knows? Maybe one day, that perspective won’t be so skewed.

    Brad Kramer: “Not all life experiences are created equal — at least in the sense that all (free, property holding, white) men are created equal. Says so right in the Constitution.”

    The Constitution says nothing about anyone being created equal. And our failure to live up to our ideals is not the fault of the Constitution itself; it’s simply the fault of our not giving the Constitution full effect.

  47. Alison Moore Smiteh on July 19, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    It is sheer lunacy to think that one’s personal experiences and background won’t come into play when making that judgment call. And in that process, I want (at least) a few people who are used to being in the losing group, the disenfranchised group, the underclass, the outsiders, the poor, etc., making that decision. People who are less likely to have the ability to identify with the underdog are, I think, less likely to fairly apply and evaluate the law.

    Wow. That’s what I’ve been getting slapped around for saying for some time now. Only I was talking about women in the church.

    Oh, yea, but we’re not “the outsiders,” we’re the “elect.”

  48. Hal Abbott on July 20, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I think the question we should be asking prospective SCOTUS justices is, “Will you be able to put aside your personal biases and prejudices and blindly rule according to the law as set forth in the Constitution?”

    I think our current POTUS has made it clear he will nominate justices who will not wear the blind-fold of justice but will interject the “correct” kinds of bias into their rulings in order to further his political agenda.

  49. javelin19 on July 25, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Define irony. Sotomayer ruled correctly by the then current law that the city of New Haven could throw out a test since it might bring a lawsuit. The US Supreme Court created new law by overruling the lower courts. Who was wearing the blind-fold of justice (Sotomayer) and who was ruling by their own bias and prejudice (five members of the US Supreme Court)?

  50. Carl Youngblood on July 29, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Sorry for posting this here, but you no apparent contact link on your web site. For the past few weeks, unless I disable javascript, your site loads up then vanishes a few seconds later for me as it is requesting something from a URL with quantserve in it. Very annoying. I’m running Firefox 3.0.12 on OS X 10.5.7.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.