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May 28th, 2009
12:23 PM ET

The arc of a justice

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/27/sotomayor.problems/art.sotomayor.latino.jpg caption="Judge Sonia Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Supreme Court."]
Jeffrey Toobin | Bio
CNN Senior Legal Analyst
New Yorker Columnist

Sixth Catholic. Second woman. Third New Yorker. (First from the Bronx. Ruth Bader Ginsburg hails from Brooklyn, Antonin Scalia from Queens.) First Hispanic. It’s understandable and appropriate to examine Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court according to the customary demographic designations. And it’s interesting, too, to learn (as we will at great length) about her remarkable personal story. (Raised in a single-parent home, in a housing project; summa cum laude at Princeton; Yale Law School; prosecutor under Robert Morgenthau.)

But it’s worth noting that the things we talk about now, during the confirmation process, tend to mean little down the road, when it really counts. John Paul Stevens had the opposite of a hard-luck story. (Raised in a luxury hotel in Chicago—the Stevens Hotel.) The question about Anthony Kennedy was whether he had resigned at the appropriate time from a restricted club. The National Organization for Women put out a leaflet that said, “Stop Souter—Or Women Will Die.” All of this was either irrelevant or (as with Souter) simply wrong. Only on rare occasions do we learn things of real importance—as we did, in 1991, about Clarence Thomas.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Jeffrey Toobin • Sonia Sotomayor
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Su from Fort Lee, NJ

    Has anyone looked into Sotomayor's law review articles? That's what I would be interested in reading to discover her TRUE beliefs rather than the "politicized" version in her written opinions...

    May 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  2. Lampe

    What makes her "Life Story" so special? Millions of women live that life day after day.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:51 pm |
  3. eva

    I am a woman and a Latina. I am embarrased to have a woman who thins her on life experirnces help her reach better conclusions than otehrs. If that is not arrogance I dont know what that is.
    She has in her remarks made it clear she intends to legislate from the bench. Judge uphold the law, they do not make it.
    This is a life long position and you can not have someone with those opinions on it.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  4. Laurie Miceli

    The people that are spreading propaganda, are doing this countrey a great disservice. Sonya Sotomayer remark is totally out of context, form what she was talking about. The Republicans seem willing to do anything to block any progress in this USA. Where is your patriotismin that you are will to sell us all down the river to prove a point. The point that you are making is that no matter what, the President does your answere is NO. We are moveing forward, with some kicking and screaming.MSn sham on you for playing up this misqout.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  5. Salvador Rostro Romero

    This rebuttal in defense of H.E. Justice Sonia Sotomayor. After President Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court was made public, a chorus or conservatives (Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, et al) branded Sotomayor a "reverse racist." Said attitude is based partly on a comment made by Sotomayor in a lecture at the University of California-Berkeley in 2001: "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."

    Let me first stress the fact that, like Islam and other religious entities, the GOP suffers the pains and sorrows produced by extremists. In U.S. government, the aforementioned can be perceived as extremist. The said have distorted the quid pro quo statement made by Sotomayor.

    When applying for employment, the solicitor must succeed in branding him/herself different than the other candidates. I am homosexual and Hispanic. In my scenario, I would stress the fact that, given my sexual orientation and minority status, I have the ability to produce a perspective far different than the status in quo. In retrospect, homosexuals tend to posses a keen and artistic insight that outweighs that of heterosexuals. Take a look at fashion, music, literature, et al. (Oscar Wilde, Gianni Versace, etc.)

    The same can be said about Sotomayor’s comment. She‘s arguing that given her minority status- woman and Hispanic, she brings a new light to the table. She’s saying that her rich heritage has made her into the woman she has become. Ars gratia artis. By no means is she being a racist.

    How can we, Sotomayor and myself, be racist. We’ve grown up in a society that ostracizes people other than Caucasoid and heterosexual. We have experience racism firsthand. We’ve experienced the wounds racism produces and want to end the cycle. In order to do so, we void ourselves of said behavior.

    The role of a justice is to administer the law- especially to establish or determine rights according to the rules of law or equity. Has Sotomayor done so accordingly. Yes. Let’s take a look at Sotomayor ruling in Pappas vs. Giuliani: Sotomayor ruled in favor of Pappas. If she were a racists, she would have voted against the plaintiff. This ruling was made in 2002, shortly after her lecture of 2001.

    The conservatives are being a ridiculus mus. Sotomayor is well prepared, both academically and experience wise. Scrutinize her on her rulings and not on opinions she’s expressed in lectures. Rulings are official and opinions are personal attitudes we all have. We were born with a freedom of speech, as stated in the First Amendment. Don’t exploit said matter any longer. Grow up!

    May 28, 2009 at 2:02 pm |