Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor is in the middle her confirmation hearings. Each day, we reach new heights of irritation that her impartiality is called into question.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Senate Judiciary Committee summed up the tone the best on “Face The Nation” on Sunday, when he said, “Every judge must be committed every day to not let their personal politics, their ethnic background, their biases, sympathies influence the nature of their decision-making process.” The implicit question-behind-the-questions seem to be, should Sotomayor not be confirmed because she may judge like a Latina and a woman, instead of like white males who comprise the majority of the Supreme Court?
While, obviously, Sessions is correct that judges must be fair and impartial, it seems to us like Sotomayor’s ethnic background is only a big to do right now because it’s something other than white—as if white people don’t have biases, too. All this flipping out about possible biases surely have their root Sotomayor “wise Latina woman” quote. Speaking at Berkeley in 2001, Sotomayor said that she believes ethnicity and gender “may and will make a difference in our judging,” continuing:
“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.”
This quote is getting twisted around in the press and the public consciousness to focus less on what she is saying about “the richness of her experience” and focus more on what she may or may not have been implying about the white-male-judgments-as-standard. And that reminds me of a post I wrote last month, after The New York Times actually wrote an article about whether female judges decide, as they put it, “differently”:
I also really like what Samhita Mukhopadhyay wrote about the same topic on Feministing:
“Session’s attempts to grill Sotomayor on this question of impartiality reveals the obvious ignorance that when white men hold partial beliefs they are natural and objective, whereas when women of color do, they are unable to effectively do the job. It seems the question of whether Sotomayor experience adds value, verse whether it impacts her ability to be objective in her rulings is at the core of the questioning.”
Have you been watching Sotomayor confirmation hearings? What do you think about the questioning she is undergoing? Do you think it’s fair for the senators to be emphasizing whether the judge is impartial and unbiased?