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Examining settled and unsettling questions.

Is Sotomayor Qualified?

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President Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the forthcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court.  She fits the President’s desire to have an “empathetic” Justice in the Court— one who is more interested in subjective and personal experience than in a rigorous following of the Constitution and law.                                     

The New York Times reported that the prominent cause of Judge Sotomayor’s career has been advancing persons of color, over whites, based on race and national origin.  Consequently, there has been criticism from some conservatives who identify her rulings as just another form of racial bigotry.

Patrick Buchanan says, “Down the path Sotomayor would take us lies an America where Hispanic justices rule for Hispanics, black judges rule for blacks and white judges rule for white folks.”  Mr. Buchanan adds that “Obama would not have selected Sotomayor if he did not share her convictions. And there is nothing in his writings or career to hint at disagreement.”

An analysis by Andy McCarthy (“The Corner,” NRO) puts a little different light on the subject.  He says forget whether she is too racist to be a Supreme Court Justice; would Judge Sotomayor qualify as a juror? 

He says citizens who are called to jury duty “have a sworn obligation to decide cases objectively—without fear or favor.”  McCarthy says that Judges at every single trial solemnly instruct prospective jurors “that if the person believes he or she has a bias or prejudice, especially one based on a belief that people are inferior or superior due to such factors as race, ethnicity, or sex, the person is not qualified to be a juror.”

Mr. McCarthy then gives a standard set of instructions used by a judge in selecting a jury:

You have two duties as a jury. Your first duty is to decide the facts from the evidence in the case. This is your job, and yours alone. Your second duty is to apply the law that I give you to the facts. You must follow these instructions, even if you disagree with them…. Perform these duties fairly and impartially. Do not allow sympathy, prejudice, fear, or public opinion to influence you. You should not be influenced by any person’s race, color, religion, national ancestry, or sex.

Would Judge Sotomayor be qualified to serve as a juror?  She has gone on record as saying that she believed a wise Latina makes better judgments than a white male; that she doubts it is actually possible to “transcend [one’s] personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law”; and that there are “basic differences” in the way people “of color” exercise “logic and reasoning.”

McCarthy then asks:  “If, upon hearing that, would it not be reasonable for a lawyer for one (or both) of the parties to ask the court to excuse her for cause? Would it not be incumbent on the court to grant that request?  Should we have on the Supreme Court, where jury verdicts are reviewed, a justice who would have difficulty qualifying for jury service?”


Written by polemicscat

June 10, 2009 at 10:42 am

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