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May 27, 2009

Isn’t justice blind?

Nm_sotomayor_090526_mn Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court, has some troubling views on that subject. From the New York Times:

In 2001, Sonia Sotomayor, an appeals court judge, gave a speech declaring that the ethnicity and sex of a judge “may and will make a difference in our judging.”

In her speech, Judge Sotomayor questioned the famous notion — often invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired Supreme Court colleague, Sandra Day O’Connor — that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion when deciding cases.

“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,” said Judge Sotomayor. . . .

(Image © Win McNamee for GettyImages)
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Kim Moreland

OhMyGosh, Let's round up all those nasty white men... Her statement is completely arrogant and should be alarming.


You guys are so easily alarmed. Like none of the white guys on the bench ever brought their life-long sensibilities to their decisions. Here's your issue in a nutshell: Obama chose her. Why don't you just say it and be done?

Jason Taylor

If "empathy" is anyone's job, it is the Legislatures.

Of course actually it should be the Clergies, the Nurses, the Shrinks and other profession's who are actually in the business of feeling other peoples pain rather then running a country.

Gina Dalfonzo

Andy, it seriously doesn't bother you that a Supreme Court nominee would credit her own gender and ethnic group with better judgment than the other gender and other ethnic groups? If it doesn't, why on earth not?

Kim Moreland

Andy, please don't go there with Democrats vs. Republicans. I was alarmed at a choice or two of the last couple Presidents.

Words matter!

Ben W

I don't like all of what she said, but some of it is sound. She's says that it's hard to be impartial: "Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar."

But she didn't say anything about the possibility of reverse bias.. in any case, groupthink is much more difficult with dissenting opinions, and a group from varied backgrounds will more likely come to just decisions than a homogenous group.

Kim Moreland

What, pray tell, does the Constiution have to do with it anything in Sotomayor's inflammatory remark--I'm pretty sure that the Constitution is color & sex-blind?

Thankfully, we already have one black and a couple of female SCJs.

Sotomayor's words were plain old derogatory.


Kim: Whoever Obama nominated, the GOP smear machine would have just put his or her name in the boilerplate "librul, activist, commie pinko" frame. This is totally about Democrat v. Republican. This nominee has more judicial experience than ANY nominee in the last 100 years, and all you folks have is a couple fairly innocuous comments grab at. So I wonder if the GOP will be so eager for the "up or down" vote they whined about a few years ago...


Andy - disregard who nominated her, just look again at that last quote. I suspect bill ayers and jane fonda have had some "rich experiences" but you probably would be less than comfortable with either of them on the bench.

Gina Dalfonzo

"Pinko"?? Enjoying those "All in the Family" reruns, are we, Andy? :-)


Andy, are you suggesting that the Right will try to... oh, what's that verb... oh, yeah - "Bork" Ms. Sotomayor?


Am waiting to hear about her actual experiences; resume (which I am sure will be "out there" soon).

I do think that there is a little in her comment I agree with...And I do see some good ideas, things happening when a qualified person who is NOT a white male enters a field. A room full of males of similar backgrounds does NOT think outside the box like a room full of mutually respectful people of differing races, backgrounds.

The KEY is - her past judicial record. That is the way to interpret her comments for good or ill...

I also pray & hope we do not have another person from a "minority" group whose governing actions show the LOVE for abortion like our President...

Abortion has DECIMATED the next gens in both the Black and Hispanic groups---

What will the demographics of abortion transform our country into???? In 25 years??? 40 years???

Will this probable Fed. judge help or hurt our future?


As usual, vikingmother uses her gifts to pierce to the heart of the matter:

"What will the demographics of abortion transform our country into????"

I.e., if we keep electing/appointing pro-abortion officials, diversity may become ever harder to achieve. Pyrrhus would be so proud.


"Pinko" is still in heavy rotation on the "EIB" (Ego Invading Broadcasting) radio network.

Ben W

Wait, what? Aren't the black and hispanic populations growing rather rapidly relative to the white population? So how are their next gens being "decimated"?



Who said this: "When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account." Oh my, Sam Alito, at his confirmation. How CAN he be an impartial judge? What have we done?

And who was this said about: "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy..." That's George I talking about Clarence Thomas.

So I guess this kind of stuff is only a real problem when it blows in from the Democratic side, huh?

Gina Dalfonzo

Justice Alito said he took it into account. He didn't say it made him a better judge than a non-Italian or a female.


Justice is blind when all is equal. If we were all on equal footing and women were paid as much as men and black people weren't still discriminated against, etc., we could have blind justice. But as a nation, and as a world, we're still figuring out justice, which can only be enhanced by more diverse judges.

Ben W

Gina, when it comes to lawsuits about discrimination, do you think that in general white men without multicultural backgrounds are equally capable of making good judgments as non-whites or as white men with more exposure?

Gina Dalfonzo

Ben, you just did almost the same thing that Judge Sotomayor does -- lumping "white men without multicultural backgrounds" into one category. (Your example wasn't quite as bad as hers, since you at least allowed for a little variety of experience among white men.) There's no "in general" about it -- people are individuals, not classes. They may be MEMBERS of a class, but an individual by himself is not going to do everything that every other member of his class does.

The question is, will judges follow the law? If the law says "No discrimination allowed" and the white male judge faithfully upholds that law to the very best of his ability, then yes, he's demonstrated the ability to make just as good a decision as anyone else.

jason taylor

"Justice is blind when all is equal. If we were all on equal footing and women were paid as much as men and black people weren't still discriminated against, etc., we could have blind justice. But as a nation, and as a world, we're still figuring out justice, which can only be enhanced by more diverse judges."

As equality on Earth is a chimera, this statement can only mean we should not try to have impartial judges until the end of the world. As heaven is a monarchy, and as we shall judge angels, and as many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first, there is limited hope for all being equal even in heaven.

As far as "All being equal" goes, you do realize that judges are of necessity farther up in the hierarchy then defendants, do you not?

As for the complaints you describe, what you are saying is that we should not attempt to have impartial judges until ingrained flaws are eradicated from society, which means we should not do so until society is perfect. In which case, due to the perfection of society there would be no need for judges.


This adds an interesting element to the mix. :-)


Before you ask, Andy, no, this doesn't make me feel any better about Judge Sotomayor's blatant ethnic and gender bias. But should she be seated, and should she indeed be willing to favor the Constitution over the "emanations" and "penumbras" beloved of abortion rights advocates, that will at least be a small consolation.

Rick Arand

When asked why he voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, Barack Obama said,

"In those 5 percent of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point....In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions,in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart."

He apparently believes that judges should be given the latitude to manipulate the Constitution in any way they deem necessary in order to achieve a desired outcome by following the subjective pitter-patter of their hearts rather than the rule of law.

To quote one great sage on this site: "Why didn’t he have the intellectual honesty to say what he really meant? He should just say it and be done."


Ben W wrote: "Wait, what? Aren't the black and hispanic populations growing rather rapidly relative to the white population? So how are their next gens being "decimated"?"

Ah, yes, the return of "Don't call it 'genocide', call it 'selective fecundity countermeasures'." Give it a rest, Ben.

Jason Taylor

If Legion A is returning from fifteen years service, with 35% dead of disease or slain by the barbarians, and the rest mustered out and given their well earned patch of land.

And Legion B mutinies upon first being raised and has one in ten executed.

Then in fact Legion B has been "decimated"(in the original meaning of the term)despite the fact that it has grown in numbers reliative to Legion A.

The mere fact that replacments come in does not change the fact that large numbers were killed.

Jason Taylor

One might point out also that our hypothetical legion B actually did something wrong, unlike the very real babies who were killed.

In any case talk of the fact that abortion "decimates" blacks is simply making a club out of whatever wood is available, seeing as a good many are expected to care more about what color skin the baby has then about the fact that it is human.


Hey - if Judge Sotomayor is appointed, shouldn't Larry Summers be reinstated at Harvard? http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2007/09/goldberg-on-a-j.html

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