With a resume as a prosecutor, corporate lawyer, trial judge and appellate court judge, she'd bring a wealth of practical experience to the court. Her life experience as a Hispanic woman raised by a single mom in a South Bronx housing project would enrich the court's understanding of its impact on the lives of everyday Americans.
If not a perfect choice, she is an excellent one. Failing unexpected revelations, the Senate should confirm her this summer. --Mercury News editorial.
Listen up. The biggest argument the conservative right-wing is making against Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination for Supreme Court justice is that her experience as a Latina might adversely affect her outlook and decisions. Some even say that even considering her life as a Latina might make her a "judicial activist" or a "reverse racist." Funny thing: when Judge Samuel Alito said virtually the same thing-- that he would utilize his experiences-- no one paused to criticize him.
Funny thing how these conservatives forget that, when put together, both Alito and Sotomayor said essentially the same thing--that, though utilizing their experiences, they would also continue to assess or evaluate their personal assumptions in applying the law.
At Alito's confirmation hearing in 2005, when Sen. Cogburn asked him to say something about himself, about Alito the person, Alito clearly spoke on behalf of considering his life experiences in making decisions:
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Judge Samuel Alito's Nomination to the Supreme Court
U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK): Can you comment just about Sam Alito, and what he cares about, and let us see a little bit of your heart and what's important to you in life?
ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point.
ALITO: I don't come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.
And I know about their experiences and I didn't experience those things. I don't take credit for anything that they did or anything that they overcame.
But I think that children learn a lot from their parents and they learn from what the parents say. But I think they learn a lot more from what the parents do and from what they take from the stories of their parents lives.
And that's why I went into that in my opening statement. 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.
And so it's my job to apply the law. It's not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result.
But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country."
When I have cases involving children, I can't help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that's before me.
And that goes down the line. 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. When I have a case involving someone who's been subjected to discrimination because of disability, I have to think of people who I've known and admire very greatly who've had disabilities, and I've watched them struggle to overcome the barriers that society puts up often just because it doesn't think of what it's doing -- the barriers that it puts up to them.
So those are some of the experiences that have shaped me as a person.
COBURN: Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I think I'll yield back the balance of my time at this time, and if I have additional questions, get them in the next round.
SPECTER: Thank you very much, Senator Coburn.
In "A Latina Judge's Voice," the speech from which Sotomayor is quoted totally out of text, Sotomayor also said she will utilize her experience as a Latina but says that she, too, will evaluate or reevaluate her assumptions that spring from her experiences in applying the law:"Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate."
Does this sound like a judge who would likely have her experience cause her to be a "judicial activist" and try to make law? Does this sound like a racist judge?
Funny thing how ambitious, fearmongering politicians trying to appeal to the right wing of the Republican party like former congressman Newt Gingrich conveniently forget to make us aware of the above quote in Sotomayor's speech. Could it be that this dance of selective amnesia has more to do with their efforts to regain office or sell books than a highly qualified and fair-minded judges attempt to become the a justice on the highest court in the land?
While the right wing is reaching for straws to criticize Sotomayor, many others are more balanced in their assessment. Here's what The Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) had to say:
Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) applauds President Obama’s historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court. While CAC’s review of Judge Sotomayor’s record is continuing, we already know that she is a brilliant lawyer who is committed to ruling based on the Constitution and the law, not on her own personal political views. As Judge Sotomayor herself stated in a recent dissenting opinion: “The duty of a judge is to follow the law, not to question its plain terms.”
The next Supreme Court Justice will have a critical voice in important decisions involving the Constitution’s text, history and core principles. She will help decide cases regarding constitutional rights and liberties and constitutional challenges to laws that matter to the lives of everyday Americans -- including cases involving voting rights, pay equity, and health, safety, and the environment. In Judge Sotomayor, we believe President Obama has found a nominee who will help ensure that the Constitution and laws are faithfully applied and remain true to their intended purpose as guardians of our rights, liberties, and equality."
Judge Sonia Sotomayor is smart, and she has a great legal mind. She is a judge in the mold of Judge Souter. But unlike Souter, she will be outspoken, challenging Justice Scalia. She will make a great Supreme Court justice. And The Prez, who made history as the first African American president, will make history again by putting her on the bench. This will be his legacy. But, by doing the right thing for her, he is also doing the right thing for himself and the democratic party: securing his reelection as Prez in 2012.
Funny how that works, huh?