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Supreme Court justice

 
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2477

PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 12:33 pm    Post subject: Supreme Court justice Reply with quote

These appointments are always scary, I think, primarily because they have such intense and long-lasting effects on all of us. What I've read has made me a bit leery of Sotomayor, so much so, that I'm looking forward to the Republicans' questioning of her.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+IHS+

I know that my take on Sotomayor doesn't really matter because I'm not an American, but I thought the following statement of hers was awful:

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 hasnít lived that life.

If one of my students said something like that in class, I'd really let her have it. :?

How can justice be impartial when it's a mere function of the judge's sex, race or (very subjective) experiences? I'd be more impressed if she argued that she could and would reach the exact same conclusions as that hypothetical white male, because that would imply that it doesn't matter what kind of judge you get--male, female, black, white, Latino, Asian, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, whatever--because you'd be sure of a just ruling at the end.

If "identity politics" ruled the courts, I'd be afraid to stand in front of a judge who isn't from the same race, sex or background as I, even if I were in the right.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree. Up to this point, Sotomayor's rulings, what we know of them, don't appear objective at all--the New Haven affirmative action case, for example. I'm hoping the confirmation hearings will dispel my unease or at least lessen it. It will be interesting to see how the present court rules in the New Haven case, too.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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Location: Western Kentucky, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I ran across an interesting article on the topic. It's long but extremely enlightening - Answering Peggy Noonan: Why Sotomayor Should Withdraw by Jeffrey Lord.

If the link doesn't work, try searching for the article by title and/or author in the archives of the spectator.org site. Their links are very erratic. I've never figured out quite why.
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LizE



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I did a little checking, and it seems that 106 out of 110 Supreme Court justices have been white men. Wow! Could it be that all these white men--and all those white men who nominated and voted for them--believed they were smarter than everyone else by virtue of their sex and ethnic background? And could it be that they didn't say this aloud because they didn't have to? White men holding the reins of power was so much a part of our culture for so long that it literally went without saying. They made the rules, they made the laws, and when they dealt the deck, guess who got the winning hands? Now here comes this Latina woman who dares to utter the unthinkable--that by virtue of her sex and ethnic background, she brings a different perspective to the bench--one that (gasp!) might actually be superior to that of a white male. How dare she!

Jeffrey Lord wonders how we would react if someone said, "I intend tonight to touch upon the themes that this conference will be discussing this weekend and to talk to you about my white identity, where it came from, and the influence I perceive it has on my presence on the bench." Guess what, Jeffrey? That's the history of our country--white identity and how it has influenced the decisions of people in power.

Disagree with Sotomayor on her decisions--that's fair, and there is plenty of room for discussion. But let's review the history of the Supreme Court again--110 justices, 106 of them white males.

Dudes, I'm sorry, but I'm just not feeling your pain.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to LizE: Doesn't your example (the 106 out of 110) reinforce the idea that neither gender nor race should impinge on judicial decisions?
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LizE



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
I'd be more impressed if she argued that she could and would reach the exact same conclusions as that hypothetical white male, because that would imply that it doesn't matter what kind of judge you get--male, female, black, white, Latino, Asian, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, whatever--because you'd be sure of a just ruling at the end.


That's interesting, Schola. Because what you seem to be saying is that the white male opinion is the standard of justice to which all people--be they white, black, female, Latino, Asian, etc.--should aspire. But why should Sotomayor reach the same conclusion as a white man? She's a Latino woman with a completely differrent background and experience. White men don't form their opinions in a vacuum, either. They are just as much the product of their upbringing and background as everyone else. Just because they don't openly admit that--and in this political climate, don't dare celebrate it (aloud)--doesn't make it any less true.

Dick, the point I was trying to make is that when you look at Sotomayor's comment all alone, apart from everything that's gone before, then it does sound totally unfair. Of course everyone should be treated equally. But historically, that has not been the case. If you place the comment in the context of history--and even Schola's observation above--the story is a bit more complicated than the sound-bite analysis we've been getting.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to lizE: But the context is not history nor very complex, is it? The point is that there should be neither gender nor racial bias in judgments. Sotomayor's comment indicated both gender and racial bias. That historically there has been a gender bias doesn't change that fact at all. In fact, it should make us more determined than ever that persons who espouse such biases not be appointed judges.
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LizE



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Of course Sotomayor's comment has a historical context. That was my whole point, that you can't separate her statement from the world in which it was made!

The history of race and gender relations in this country has and continues to be extremely complex. You can keep saying that there shouldn't be bias under the law, and I'll keep agreeing that it sure would be nice--but that's not the way it's been. That's not the way it is. There is bias in our legal system--often to the detriment of minorities. Dick, you are aware of this fact, I'm sure. We're not a color-blind society by any means. But just let a person from one of those minorities bring up that unwelcome truth and say, hey, why can't we use the legal system to help ourselves out a little? Or, Guess what, I'm as good as you, white men, and maybe better. Then, suddenly, you hear the shocked cries of "unfair" and "racism" from the white community--particularly white conservative men, who are the most threatened and infuriated by any challenge to their power.

It seems to me that Sotomayor's comment is a reflection of the way things really are as opposed to the way we all wish they were. Those who condemn her for speaking the truth strike me as either disengenous or blind to the complexities of race relations.

But that's just me. I doubt I can convince you, Dick, and I know you won't convince me, so I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LizE wrote:
Schola wrote:
I'd be more impressed if she argued that she could and would reach the exact same conclusions as that hypothetical white male, because that would imply that it doesn't matter what kind of judge you get--male, female, black, white, Latino, Asian, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, whatever--because you'd be sure of a just ruling at the end.


That's interesting, Schola. Because what you seem to be saying is that the white male opinion is the standard of justice to which all people--be they white, black, female, Latino, Asian, etc.--should aspire. But why should Sotomayor reach the same conclusion as a white man? She's a Latino woman with a completely differrent background and experience. White men don't form their opinions in a vacuum, either. They are just as much the product of their upbringing and background as everyone else. Just because they don't openly admit that--and in this political climate, don't dare celebrate it (aloud)--doesn't make it any less true.


Well, as you've pointed out, Liz, 106 out of 110 of the US Supreme Court Justices have been white men. "White male opinion" is not a standard to live up to; it's just what the US Supreme Court has happened to have since its inception. If they had had mostly black females, I'd be saying the same thing. Race (and background) should be completely incidental, so the fact that Sotomayor has said they aren't is a huge mark against her.

Remember the representation of justice with a blindfold and a pair of scales? Sotomayor is practically flaunting the fact that she has no blindfold. Not that all Supreme Court Justices have been perfect, but why give this nominee a pass just because she has the political good fortune to be a Latina female? If a white man had said what she had, contrasting himself with, say, a black man, he would never have got this far.

LizE wrote:
You can keep saying that there shouldn't be bias under the law, and I'll keep agreeing that it sure would be nice--but that's not the way it's been. That's not the way it is.


Does that mean Americans should just give up and lower their standards? If there weren't enough minority doctors, should we lower the standards on the board exams?

LizE wrote:
There is bias in our legal system--often to the detriment of minorities. Dick, you are aware of this fact, I'm sure. We're not a color-blind society by any means. But just let a person from one of those minorities bring up that unwelcome truth and say, hey, why can't we use the legal system to help ourselves out a little? Or, Guess what, I'm as good as you, white men, and maybe better. Then, suddenly, you hear the shocked cries of "unfair" and "racism" from the white community--particularly white conservative men, who are the most threatened and infuriated by any challenge to their power.


Oh, I get it. White men are the enemy. Oh, it's all so clear now . . .

Seriously, if I lived in America, I'd be part of a small minority--and I'd do my best never to play the race card or religion card or gender card. I do have a fair idea of what that would be like, having lived in New Zealand (which is pretty multicultural these days) while earning my college degree. If someone from my racial community said, "Hey, why can't we use the legal system to help ourselves out a little," I'd be the first to say, "Because that's not what the legal system is for and I don't want the rest of New Zealand thinking that we play the race card."
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

to liz e: So, because she is honest in stating her biases, the honesty makes the biases OK? Because there have been racial and gender tensions in our society for many years, we should shrug the shoulders when someone says, "Hey, let's continue these things, because now it's my turn"?

Sorry. I can't follow that kind of reasoning.
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LizE



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
If someone from my racial community said, "Hey, why can't we use the legal system to help ourselves out a little," I'd be the first to say, "Because that's not what the legal system is for and I don't want the rest of New Zealand thinking that we play the race card."


Point taken, Schola--I expressed myself poorly. "Help ourselves out a little," was a bit flippant. I should have said something more along the lines of--"...use the legal system to try to level the playing field so that all people in this great country have equal access to its wealth of opportunities." And I can imagine a situation in which it is possible that an individual, based on his or her unique life experiences, might possibly have an insight into these issues that would benefit us all.

I never said that white men are the enemy. It's not something I believe --well, unless I'm listening to conservative talk radio (kidding) (sorta). Look, if Sotomayor is a racist, it will be obvious by looking at her decisions, in which case she doesn't belong on the Supreme Court and very likely won't end up there. If her decisions have been fair, then do you think she should be denied on the basis of one remark?

Dick, I do hear what you're saying. Sorry you can't hear me.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LizE wrote:
Schola wrote:
If someone from my racial community said, "Hey, why can't we use the legal system to help ourselves out a little," I'd be the first to say, "Because that's not what the legal system is for and I don't want the rest of New Zealand thinking that we play the race card."


Point taken, Schola--I expressed myself poorly. "Help ourselves out a little," was a bit flippant. I should have said something more along the lines of--"...use the legal system to try to level the playing field so that all people in this great country have equal access to its wealth of opportunities." And I can imagine a situation in which it is possible that an individual, based on his or her unique life experiences, might possibly have an insight into these issues that would benefit us all.


Well, it would depend on what "leveling the playing field" means. From what I've seen of politics in America, it means affirmative action and quotas, which I don't think are fair in the first place.

LizE wrote:
I never said that white men are the enemy. It's not something I believe --well, unless I'm listening to conservative talk radio (kidding) (sorta). Look, if Sotomayor is a racist, it will be obvious by looking at her decisions, in which case she doesn't belong on the Supreme Court and very likely won't end up there. If her decisions have been fair, then do you think she should be denied on the basis of one remark?


Good point. I haven't looked at her previous rulings. Some isolated comments shouldn't be taken too seriously, but others are red flags for a reason.

This reminds me of a senator from my country who made a really horrible joke several years ago. I'm not sure of the context, but he basically said that a woman who is being raped and has no hope of fighting off her attacker should just lie back and try to enjoy it. As you can imagine, his presidential hopes died that day. Now, he had had a pretty solid record behind him. He had been a congressman before he was a senator.

In my opinion, a stupid locker room joke wasn't the measure of his ability to run the country. Yet I think the reason Sotomayor's comment has been so controversial is that it reveals that she's okay with playing identity politics--which directly concerns her as a judge.
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erhea13



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was in a Judicial Politics class this semester, i had to read an article that attempted to break down what factors into the decisions of judges. Surprisingly, identity factors such as race, gender, and social background seemed to play a minute role in Supreme Court decision making. The biggest factor was political persuasion (admittedly that is influenced by identity factors). It is unrealistic to expect judges to make decisions as if they have lived in a vacuum. Each experience shapes how judges read the law. The issue with Sotomayor is that her comments evince a determination to interpret the law differently for a latina and a white man, or a black woman. The law is supposed to see all of these people as the same - no, it has not always worked out that way, but "leveling the playing field" by tearing down those who have been at the top is not the right way to rectify the wrongs of the past. The Supreme Court should be process oriented, not outcome oriented.

As a republican myself, I do await the GOP inquiry process into Sotomayor. However, this is not by any means a critical nomination. I sincerely doubt anything but an act of God will get Obama one of those. He is simply replacing a liberal judge with another liberal judge. The judge who retired hated Washington but was determined to wait until Democrats regained the White House. The conservative judges now on the Court will probably play the same waiting game. The GOP will not put up their biggest fight against Sotomayor because she is not the type of nominee to be feared. The one thing the conservative bloc on the Court has that the liberal bloc has lacked for many years is a standard bearer (Alito). He is the strongest opinion writer on the Court and can articulate conservative positions in a manner that is close to an art. Liberals do not have that type of a juge to hem in their positions and Sotomayor is no where near fitting that bill. For Obama's next appointment (Ginsburg will not stay much longer) he may try to find that standard bearer, and the GOP will pull out all of the stops to prevent that.
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