So­tomayor’s ethic of eth­nic­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The White House spin ma­chine has de­fended Supreme Court nom­i­nee Judge So­nia So­tomayor by claim­ing her con­tro­ver­sial opin­ions have been taken “out of con­text.” Pres­i­dent Obama as­serted that he is “sure she would have re­stated” her most of­fen­sive re­marks if given the chance. Both ex­cuses fall flat. Judge So­tomayor’s ca­reer has been spent pro­mot­ing racial and gen­der pref­er­ences.

The record proves that the judge meant ex­actly what she said in a 2001 speech: “ . . . a wise Latina woman with the rich­ness of her ex­pe­ri­ences would more of­ten than not reach a bet­ter con­clu­sion than a white male.” She re­peated that ex­act phrase in a speech she gave in 2003 at Se­ton Hall Uni­ver­sity, and she used the same words mi­nus the “Latina” mod­i­fier in at least four other speeches be­tween 1994 and 2000.

The New York Times re­ported on May 30 that Judge So­tomayor “shared the alarm of oth­ers in the group when the Supreme Court pro­hib­ited the use of quo­tas in uni­ver­sity ad­mis­sions in its 1978 de­ci­sion Re­gents of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia v. Bakke.” In 2006, Judge So­tomayor ruled that cur­rently im­pris­oned felons can­not be de­nied the right to vote if a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of them are black or Latino, no mat­ter how heinous their crimes.

Judge So­tomayor’s 2008 de­ci­sion in Ricci v. DeSte­fano showed no em­pa­thy for the dyslexic and learn­ing-dis­abled fire­fighter who gave up a sec­ond job to study for a pro­mo­tion exam he ended up ac­ing, only to be de­nied the pro­mo­tion be­cause he was white.

On May 29, in an in­ter­view with NBC’s Brian Wil­liams, Mr. Obama tried to clar­ify Judge So­tomayor’s state­ments: “If you look in the en­tire sweep of the es­say that she wrote, what’s clear is that she sim­ply was say­ing that her life ex­pe­ri­ences will give her in­for­ma­tion about the strug­gles and hard­ships that peo­ple are go­ing through that will make her a good judge.”

The full quote tells a dif­fer­ent story and leaves no room for mis­un­der­stand­ing:

“Whether born from ex­pe­ri­ence or in­her­ent phys­i­o­log­i­cal or cul­tural dif­fer­ences, a pos­si­bil­ity I ab­hor less or dis­count less than my col­league Judge [Miriam Gold­man] Cedar­baum, our gen­der and na­tional ori­gins may and will make a dif­fer­ence in our judg­ing. Jus­tice [San­dra Day] 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 [Ju­dith] Res­nik at­tributes that line to Supreme Court Jus­tice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the state­ment. First, as Pro- fes­sor 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.”

The speech as a whole makes clear that this fo­cus on the eth­nic­ity of judges is not just a side­light, but her cen­tral theme.

Racial pref­er­ences are not only bad law and bad pol­icy, but also anath­ema to the Amer­i­can pub­lic. Poll­sters at Quin­nip­iac Uni­ver­sity re­leased a sur­vey on June 3 show­ing that by a 70-to-25 mar­gin, Amer­i­cans op­pose racial pref­er­ences in gov­ern­ment hir­ing. His­panic re­spon­dents strongly op­posed pref­er­ences, 58 to 38 per­cent. Against that tide, it takes an ex­tremely un­wise Latina woman to in­sist that both the law and its judges ought to be swayed by racial and eth­nic iden­tity.

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