When President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the usual suspects were all like “Wow! First woman Hispanic Hispanic female Latina woman from Puerto Rico!” and I was like “Cool, but what about Benjamin Cardozo?” Well, it turns out that ol’ Ben don’t qualify as Hispanic, as Lord Peter Wimsey might have said, because his antecedents were Portuguese, and that’s not Hispanic. However, it is Latino…and then again some people think that Cardozo’s family was originally Spanish, not Portuguese. But plenty of people wouldn’t count Cardozo as anything even remotely “Spanish” in origin, because he was Jewish, and hey, we’ve let lots of Jews onto the Supreme Court so now they’re no longer considered minorities any more.
So what’s the big deal about this stuff? Nothing! It’s just that some people get all excited about the “first this” and “first that” until the end result is that everyone is issuing press releases like the “first disabled lesbian Native American to be named CEO of a green renewable energy firm in the Midwest” or something. As far as I’m concerned, an announcement of this magnitude should be about someone’s qualifications and background, and all this minority rah-rah nonsense should be left for the last sentence in the last paragraph of the press release, if at all. But what do I know, I only spent 20 years as a journalist.
So what about her qualifications? Well, Judge Sotomayor is apparently a top-notch pick and more than just well qualified, having graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and having spent almost two decades as a respected Federal judge. No problem there. And I have nothing to say about any of her so-called “litmus test” beliefs — where people decide if they like a judge based on their “check the box” position on abortion, gun rights, free speech, death penalty, etc. — because apparently she hasn’t signaled one strong preference or another on these subjects in all this time. So that’s very good, because every case should be decided on its own merits, not as a rubber stamp based on a judge’s personal opinion.
My main concern with Judge Sotomayor is simply her reported viewpoint, given in a speech, that a “wise Latina woman” (sic), presumably herself, “would reach a better conclusion than a white male”.
Let’s pause here for a moment. Can you imagine any Supreme Court nominee in the last 25 years who wouldn’t have been totally demolished if they had said “a white male would reach a better conclusion than a [fill-in-the-blank minority]”? That sort of remark would be rightly considered as totally racist, and before anyone on either side of the aisle even considers confirming Judge Sotomayor, they ought to get a very clear answer from her on how she reconciles that kind of statement with her sworn duty to judge cases fairly…especially given her decision in Ricci v. DeStefano.