Sotomayor’s ethic of ethnicity
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.