Friday, July 17, 2009

Before we leave Sotomayor as she inevitably reaches the Supreme Court...

Sotomayor’s “Wise Latina:” Perjury?

2009-07-17 08:50:45-04

By Joel McDurmon

“Sotomayor” is Spanish for “great thicket.” In the hearings for her Supreme Court nomination this week, Sonia Sotomayor is hoping we won’t see the forest for the thicket. She has used every weasel word, evasion, and even plain language in an attempt to divert attention from the one huge fact we all know: she’s a liberal, feminist, radical judge just waiting to grab power before she unleashes her radicalism. This fact has most clearly shown through in her comment that a “wise Latina woman” can reach a better decision than a white male, and this is why this particular comment of hers has received the most public scrutiny (despite her pretended dismay over the fact). Many have already tired of this issue, but I hope the following paragraphs will persuade you why we should not yet let this go.

In defense of herself she has argued that her critics have pulled the statement from its context. In context she says she only meant to “inspire” young Latino lawyers “to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system.”[1]

Then she spoke very clearly and sternly against her critics’ perception. This statement is very important. She said,

I want to state up front, unequivocally, and without doubt: I do not believe that any ethnic, racial, or gender group has any advantage in sound judging. . . . The words I used, I used agreeing with the sentiment that justice Sandra Day-O’Connor was attempting to convey. I understood that sentiment to be. . . that both men and women were equally capable of being
wise and fair judges.[2]

In saying this I believe she may have perjured herself, because this was expressly the opposite of what she says in her now well publicized speech. In that speech she clearly expresses disagreement with Day - O’Connor’s view that, as she puts it, “wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.”[3]

She expresses her disagreement with these words:

I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First . . . there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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.[4]

There is no escaping the fact, therefore, that she delivered her infamous “wise Latina” comment as a rejection of Day - O’Connor’s view of equality. No honest interpreter could accept this as anything other than a confirmation of a form of racial and gender superiority. Furthermore, she offered this comment in support of her earlier argument in favor of the fact that racial and gender difference must inevitably affect judicial decisions. She puts it this way:

Yet, because 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. . . . [E]nough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging.[5]

Again, she says, “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences . . . our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”[6] She embraces this fact, and looks forward to her own “difference making”:

Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.[7]

She encourages other young minority lawyers to embrace this attitude as well, and let it infect their legal decisions:

For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? . . . For all of us, how do [we] change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?[8]

And she directs “men lawyers” (presumably “white” males) to consider how they can improve themselves, presumably by approximating the role of previous liberals who have made decisions favoring minorities: “For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach.”[9]

It remains clear to me that she intended to mean not that a minority could judge equally as well as anyone else, but as she plainly said, an ethnic or gender minority could “more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male.” If our legislators cannot understand that this clearly expresses racism and sexism, then America is truly lost in a great thicket of political incompetence and prejudice.

I can’t believe this woman would get off the hook by merely saying she believes in equality and that she was agreeing with Day-O’Connor. Both points made in her hearings flatly contradict what she said and wrote in her speech. The Senate Judiciary Committee should not accept this evasive testimony, and ought to look into it as a possible case of perjury. Worse yet, to confirm her nomination would be the least wise thing they could do at this point.

Endnotes: [1] See (accessed July 16, 2009). [2]See (accessed July 16, 2009). [3] Cited by Jennifer Rubin, “A Wise Latina Woman,” Weekly Standard (Vol. 14, Iss. 37), June 15, 2009,[4] Jennifer Rubin, “A Wise Latina Woman,” Weekly Standard (Vol. 14, Iss. 37), June 15, 2009, (accessed July 16, 2009).[5] Jennifer Rubin, “A Wise Latina Woman,” Weekly Standard (Vol. 14, Iss. 37), June 15, 2009, (accessed July 16, 2009).[6] Jennifer Rubin, “A Wise Latina Woman,” Weekly Standard (Vol. 14, Iss. 37), June 15, 2009, (accessed July 16, 2009).[7] Jennifer Rubin, “A Wise Latina Woman,” Weekly Standard (Vol. 14, Iss. 37), June 15, 2009,[8] Jennifer Rubin, “A Wise Latina Woman,” Weekly Standard (Vol. 14, Iss. 37), June 15, 2009, (accessed July 16, 2009).[9] Jennifer Rubin, “A Wise Latina Woman,” Weekly Standard (Vol. 14, Iss. 37), June 15, 2009, (accessed July 16, 2009).


fighter4freedom said...

When are the Republicans going to get tough enough in these Senate confirmation hearings to blow biased people like this out?

Are challengers to people like Sotomayor going to accept incomplete and half-baked answers? Were there enough followup questions in pursuit of Sotomayor's core beliefs delivered?

Will the last RHINO wimp leaving the confirmation hearing room please turn out the lights?

Ben McCall said...

The Incredible Shrinking GOP: It has been forever since the Legal Beagles in the BAR have branded an attorney such positive accolades as Sotomayor has received. But the religious Right in their ever self sanctimonious righteousness continue to slam everything not geared to the GOP's bigoted racist mindsets. Any they jokingly call themselves the party of inclusion: Better yet, the party of extinction.