Sonia Sotomayor’s greatest hits

posted at 10:55 am on May 26, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Courtesy of our friends at Verum Serum, who have plenty more to say about Sonia Sotomayor. Not only do we have Sotomayor essentially admitting that she sees lawmaking as the purview of courts, but a speech given in 2001 makes Sotomayor sound like the kind of identity-politics hack that most people saw in Lani Guinier when her appointment in the Clinton administration went down to defeat.

First, the video:

Um, all of the legal defense funds out there, um, they’re looking for people out there with court of appeals experience, because court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know, I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don’t make law, I know. Um, um — [laughter] — I know. I’m not promoting it, I’m not advocating it, and, I’m … you know. [laughter]

If she’s that erudite in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee when answering this question, the Republicans won’t have to push hard to bounce Sotomayor out of the Supreme Court. She knew she’d overreached and couldn’t even explain herself in front of a friendly audience, who realized quite well that her backpedaling was entirely self-serving and incoherent.

Sotomayor was much more clear in another law-school speech in 2001, this time at UC Berkeley law school. Facing another sympathetic crowd, she informed the graduates that, contrary to public opinion, color and gender do mean something in qualifications for public service:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” — Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in her Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law in 2001

Stuart Taylor picked this quote from deep within a May 15th profile of Sotomayor in the New York Times, and wonders in the National Journal whether the Times would have buried a similar quote by Samuel Alito during his confirmation process:

So accustomed have we become to identity politics that it barely causes a ripple when a highly touted Supreme Court candidate, who sits on the federal Appeals Court in New York, has seriously suggested that Latina women like her make better judges than white males.

Indeed, unless Sotomayor believes that Latina women also make better judges than Latino men, and also better than African-American men and women, her basic proposition seems to be that white males (with some exceptions, she noted) are inferior to all other groups in the qualities that make for a good jurist.

Any prominent white male would be instantly and properly banished from polite society as a racist and a sexist for making an analogous claim of ethnic and gender superiority or inferiority.

Imagine the reaction if someone had unearthed in 2005 a speech in which then-Judge Samuel Alito had asserted, for example: “I would hope that a white male with the richness of his traditional American values would reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman who hasn’t lived that life” — and had proceeded to speak of “inherent physiological or cultural differences.”

That fits entirely within Barack Obama’s “empathy” guidelines, and it serves as an admission that Sotomayor has more interest in outcomes than in the law. If so, she should run for Congress, where policy gets made. The reason race and gender shouldn’t matter at all is because judges should apply the law, not their “life experiences” or their “empathy” for specific outcomes. Sotomayor sounds like Judge Roy Bean, calling the courts a law unto themselves, rather than a thoughtful jurist interested in applying the law created by a representative democracy.

Is this enough to derail Sotomayor? Perhaps not, but it’s plenty to assure a colorful confirmation hearing, especially with Jeff Sessions serving as ranking Republican.


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