Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor: The folly of dispassion

The real reason behind the G.O.P.'s opposition to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is not because of her qualifications or her comments made in 2001 about being influenced by her life experiences it's because the Republicans are angry that President Obama once again showed excellent political shrewdness in selecting Sotomayor.

Obama's first Supreme Court nomination was fraught with a lot of potential political danger. His selection of Sotomayor which expands the doors of opportunity for women and Hispanics in the Supreme Court and the strength of Sotomayor's qualifications (she is far more qualified for the post than Clarence Thomas or Bush crony Harriet Miers) are the real motivating factors for the G.O.P. carping.

Personally I find the Republican's insistence that any future Supreme Court nominee must be dispassionate amusing. Ideally we like our judges to be dispassionate and balanced and fair. That is the ideal but in reality all legal officers, judges, lawyers, and police officers alike are ruled by their life experiences. Their judgments are colored by who and what they are and what they feel and how the law is interpreted is based on those feelings and life experiences: for better or for worse. Only machines are dispassionate.

When the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1890s ruled in Plessy vs. Ferguson that racial segregation was legal how many of the justices were dispassionate or unaffected by emotions or prejudices? How many justices based their legal reasoning in mandating racial segregation in deference to the enormous and virulent prejudices of that era?

If anyone thinks the U.S. Supreme Court is dispassionate in its inner dealings and workings then I strongly urge all readers to read Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong's book The Brethren an insider account of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1969 to 1976. Although it is dated a cursory reading of the book will disabuse anyone of the notion that Supreme Court justices are dispassionate. Actually it's the opposite. That goes for both liberals and conservatives.

Sonia Sotomayor will make a fine justice and should be confirmed with all deliberate speed.

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