The XX Factor

Sotomayor Gets Hysterical Again

I know that Sonia Sotomayor is a crazy , overemotional , hysterical , aggressive bitch because some anonymous lawyers told me so. On the other hand, she sounds quite rational in this 2002 speech on whether the gender or race of a judge should affect judicial decisions. The New York Times has the full text:

No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. 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. The aspiration to impartiality is just that–it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging.

Sotomayor outlines what strikes me as a fairly subtle position; impartiality is a noble aspiration all judges ought to share, but if we are clear-eyed we recognize that we will never quite get there. And in acknowledging our limitations as objective decision makers, it makes sense to appoint judges with diverse life experiences. If we cannot all converge on some hoped-for Platonic truth, we can at least try to ensure that one perspective doesn’t dominate.

But subtlety is not a quality Congress is known to value. Through the lens of populist Republican conservatism Sotomayor’s remarks on objectivity will read something like “there is no God, morality is for suckers, and I will decide cases based on how my period is making me feel that day.” This may be the kind of thing an aspiring SCOTUS nominee does well to leave unsaid.