Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hearings for a Justice

The Sonia Sotomayor are in full swing. I’ve watched some of it but have to say this is not riveting TV. I have to say I’m tired in general of when there are Supreme Court nominees all the hypothetical questions they get asked. Well how would you rule on this type of a case. Each and every nominee has rightfully said I can’t answer that question. What the politician is looking for is some sort of political got ya moment. The nominee is rightful declining to give the pol that chance.

But more importantly a nominee should not be answering the questions because this would in no way reflect how they would rule on a real case. In a real case there’s probably hundreds of pages of transcript on the specific case. There are oral arguments from both sides of the issue. There’s been questions from the judges to the lawyers from both sides. Completely and totally different from hypothetical. Good for Judge Sotomayor for not falling into this trap. No judge should.

Then there has been the on-going wise Latina flap. Republicans give it a rest. Eugene Robinson has a great piece on this in the Post.

I think this sums up the argument against this idiocy very well:

Republicans’ outrage, both real and feigned, at Sotomayor’s musings about how her identity as a “wise Latina” might affect her judicial decisions is based on a flawed assumption: that whiteness and maleness are not themselves facets of a distinct identity. Being white and male is seen instead as a neutral condition, the natural order of things. Any “identity” -- black, brown, female, gay, whatever -- has to be judged against this supposedly “objective” standard.

Thus it is irrelevant if Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. talks about the impact of his background as the son of Italian immigrants on his rulings -- as he did at his confirmation hearings -- but unforgivable for Sotomayor to mention that her Puerto Rican family history might be relevant to her work. Thus it is possible for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to say with a straight face that heritage and experience can have no bearing on a judge’s work, as he posited in his opening remarks yesterday, apparently believing that the white male justices he has voted to confirm were somehow devoid of heritage and bereft of experience.

I also think it is completely dishonest to say that someone background does not play a role in how they look at cases. Sessions went on about you only must look at the law and you should not be influenced by anything else. Well if you carry this to its logical conclusion then all Supreme Court decisions should be 9-0 because there’s only one way to interpret the law. Actually no there’s not. Someone’s back ground is going to play a part in the interpretation of the law. The question that can be asked is how much that will influence someone’s decision on a case.

I’ve been mugged so I think I might have a very different take on a mugging case then say someone who has not been mugged. The thing is how well can I put aside what happened to me and look at only the case before me. I’ve been on a couple of juries since the mugging and I think I’ve done a good job of putting it aside.

Also the final thing to consider is the hearings are essentially Kabuki theater. There is no real chance the Republicans have of stopping the nomination but they can blow a whole lot of hot air to placate their base. And by the way the Democrats are doing the exact same thing.

The important thing is that in a very few short weeks the US will have its first Latina Supreme Court Justice. About time too!

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