Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Supreme Court Meets Humpty Dumpty

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is undoubtedly headed for confirmation by a Senate overweighted with Democrats. Still, there's plenty about her that is disturbing.

She's now famous for stating:

"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."

Is her statement more acceptable than its inverse?

"I would hope that a wise WHITE MALE with the richness of HIS experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a LATINA WOMAN who hasn't lived that life."

Even more than her opinions, these words are a guide to Sotomayor's likely behavior on the High Court. She is a judge from the legal school of identity politics. This is not the same as taking justifiable pride in being the first Puerto Rican-American nominated to the Court, as both she and the President did yesterday. Her personal and family stories are admirable. Italian-Americans also swelled at the achievement of Justice Antonin Scalia, as Jewish-Americans did at the nomination of Benjamin Cardozo.

These men saw themselves as judges first and ethnic representatives second. Judge Sotomayor's belief is that a "Latina woman" is by definition a superior judge to a "white male" because she has had more "richness" in her struggle. The danger inherent in this judicial view is that the law isn't what the Constitution says but whatever the judge in the "richness" of her experience comes to believe it should be.

Or, borrowing from Through the Looking Glass in a scene with Alice and Humpty Dumpty --

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -- that's all.'

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you talking about the rythm or the potato chips?

1:38 PM  

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