FURTHER UPDATE: below
Sonia Sotomayor, a Federal judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, is widely believed to be near the top of President Obama's potential picks to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Souter. Sotomayor's candidacy is driven by the fact that, if confirmed, she would be the first non-white Hispanic on the Supreme Court. If nominated, should conservatives back her?
Be very, very afraid. Not because of her liberal reasoning--conservatives shouldn't mimic the left's deplorable tendency to abandon objectivity and neutral principles for partisan politics. And not based on the disputed and controversial assertion that she's insufficiently smart and judicious. If true, that would be reason to oppose, but I think the claims poorly-researched, overstated and unproven. Indeed, lawyers I know who have appeared before Sotomayor give her good marks, though this, too, is contradicted.
Rather, the danger in elevating Sotomayor to the Supremes is that the high court becomes a "Bantustan" of "balanced" representation. Yet, that seems to be how Sotomayor herself sees it, based on her 2001 remarks for the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law:
I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, "to judge is an exercise of power" and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states "there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives - no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging," I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. . .We don't want an Associate Justice whose judicial philosophy is based on denying neutral objectivity. Unwilling to accept the word of a neo-con Republican? Well, read the intelligent and always-fair analysis by Democrat lawyer/columnist Stuart Taylor in the May 23rd National Journal:
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.
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.Agreed.
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."
I have been hoping that despite our deep divisions, President Obama would coax his party, and the country, to think of Americans more as united by allegiance to democratic ideals and the rule of law and less as competing ethnic and racial groups driven by grievances that are rooted more in our troubled history than in today's reality.
The National Review's May 26th editorial on the nomination:
Sotomayor’s liberalism would not constitute a reason for denying her a seat on the Supreme Court if it merely consisted of a set of policy positions identical to those of the Senate’s 15 most liberal members. Unfortunately, liberalism has for some time now incorporated a tacit judicial philosophy in which the goal is to impose policies as left-wing as a judge can get away with. Sotomayor seems to march to that beat. More to the point, perhaps, she has shown no signs of marching to any other one.(via reader Doug J.)
Judges who decide cases in this manner abuse their office and undermine the rule of law. They also generate policies that are harmful to our economy, dangerous to our national security, and destructive to our social fabric. Liberal activism on the bench has these effects even when the offending judges are geniuses. The nominee’s approach to judging is more important than her IQ, and it is on that subject that senators ought to be trying to shed light.