(Notably, the paper did link to her entire address online; I did not see that link this morning).


This morning, The Town Talk‘s “Our View” editorial opposes Judge Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court because she once said this:

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

Here’s what Judge Sotomayor said next (bold mine):

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. 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. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

I also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation. For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach. For all of us, how do change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?

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.

There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering. We, I mean all of us in this room, must continue individually and in voices united in organizations that have supported this conference, to think about these questions and to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making.

I am delighted to have been here tonight and extend once again my deepest gratitude to all of you for listening and letting me share my reflections on being a Latina voice on the bench. Thank you.

So, how, exactly, is she a racist? Does the paper even know what Sotomayor means?

2 thoughts

  1. You beat me to it man!

    BTW, something occured to me earlier re the TT…doesn’t it seem odd that whereas several blogs and other sites covered it, the TT chose not to mention Aguillard’s rallying of the troops over at LC?

    I still don’t see why the Town Talk feels that there is a need for them to issue their official opinion on things like Politics.

    I would find much better value in the paper’s presenting an in depth look at all sides of the issue. They have the space and format (and readership) to really delve into things like the implications of a Supreme Court nomination, but instead they just issue their opinion (which seems to ALWAYS go in a certain direction) and that’s it.

    How about being a tool for dialog and a way of bringing world/national issue to the local audience and showing how those issues impact Central Louisiana Town Talk?

    This isn’t another criticism of the paper, it’s a reader asking you to please…be journalists, not pundits.

  2. Lamar,

    The Republican party is terrible at Borking nominees. There isn’t a solid Republican spine in the U.S. Senate. The fact that this woman was on the board of “La Raza” would enough to earn a straight down vote from me. The rest of this is window dressing.

    Newt (maybe the smartest man in the history of the U.S. Congress, though that may not be saying much, and he’s not without flaws) can say what he wants. She will be confirmed, probably in the 85-15 range. Maybe it gets ugly, and the no votes approach 30. Clarence Thomas survived much, much worse, though the Dems have refined their Borking procedure, and are so good at it, that Republicans couldn’t even consider Thomas or anything approaching a right-wing equivalent of Sotomayor, so the issue is really moot.

    If you didn’t think politics is just merely a BS mind-control, power game, where the real people in power just change chairs, this is the time to be paying attention. The Republicans, who were very clear that there isn’t really any constitutional support for filibustering a nominee when a Republican president was making the nomination are now, at least blustering about a filibuster. The Democrats who aren’t even sure that the U.S. Constitution is in print or available anymore (and typically don’t care, as long as the desired result is achieved, it’s “retroactively constitutional”) are now, all of a sudden, constitutional scholars, when it’s their guy making the pick.

    Funny and sad, all at the same time.

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