Sotomayor: Sex, Justice and the Full Court Press

Countdown 70 minutes before President Obama names his nominee to the Supreme Court, the power vested to the President at the start of Article II, Section 2:
He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur....
Rumor mill is saying his nominee is going to be 54-year old Sonya Sotomayor, federal judge on the 2nd Circuit. Given that half of U.S. citizens are women, that many of the major cases on the horizon revolve around issues sex & gender (including abortion, employment equality, rape, and marriage) and that Ruth Bader Ginsberg is sick and tired of being the only woman on the supreme court, the easy money's always been that Obama will nominate another woman to our highest court.

We'll dig into that later, but here are some fun things to look forward to:

  • Sexist language about "empathy" Sexism is nothing new to this process -- look at some of the charming pubic-hair comments that came to light during Justice Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court. In this case, first point in the competition of privileged men sounding stupid goes to President Obama, who set up Sotomayor (or whoever the nominee is) by talking about "empathy," setting a tone of discussion that will likely prove to run along the lines of "golly gee, women are much more in touch with their feelings." Still love the man to death, but for someone that brought Larry Summers into the inner sanctum, his tone on empathy is a disappointment but not a big surprise. I get what he's saying; some of the worst recent decisions come from a court that is so far removed from the reality of human life that they're Vulcan-like. But the tone is not what's needed for the upcoming fight. Because there's going to be a fight...
  • Full Court Press The Republican Party has nothing to lose -- and unlike the Democrats, they understand guerrilla warfare (infamously so). To preview what's going to come up next in the Senate, check out the great New Yorker article by Malcom Gladwell on "How David Beats Goliath." Insurgencies do well when they act like insurgents and lose when they act like well-run armies (witness what happened the last few years to the Tamil Tigers as they started acting like an army; if peace doesn't follow victory, expect a return to suicide bombings -- which they invented -- in the coming months). Weak basketball teams start winning when they give up the polite version of b-ball and switch to offensive, in-your-face offence. The GOP might be raising more money still than the Dems, but having lost much of their popular support, their sense of fair play and their moderate wing, they've got nothing to lose. Filibusters, slander, and general obstreperous antics are sure to follow. A perfect summer movie horror show bloodbath, coming soon to the blogosphere!


  1. Yes, empathy will be a huge issue, because everyone knows that the best decisions come when the Supremes ignore law and simply pick the outcome that makes them feel all warm and squishy inside. Time to rip that blindfold off the lady with the scales! To help the Court in the empathy portion of the process, just have applicants fill out this simple questionaire:

    1. Have you given the maximum to the Democratic Party and its candidates over the last 5 years?
    2. If the answer to 1 is "no", there's still time! Just enter your CC number here _________.
    3. If your answer is still "no", do you prefer prison clothes in orange, vertical stripes, or horizontal stripes?

  2. John, is there a point in there, or are you just casting aspersions?

  3. of course John has a point, it is the one on top of his head. Sad little man that he is, he probably thinks what he wrote above is witty, when all it is is regurgitated Limbaughian nincompoopery.

    A couple of comments, the recent abominable Court decision regarding the young girl who was forcibly strip searched while looking for something as innocuous as an over the counter pain med (which she didn't have) shows the necessity of empathy, which means nothing more than the identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.
    Cops can't question children without a guardian present, but schools can strip search them, with far, far less probable cause than exists outside the school?

    Of course empathy is a critical faculty, who truly wants a cold, unfeeling individual. Certainly one can be empathetic without losing ones reasoning ability. Parents do it all the time.

    A few other points dear Doctor

    He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur

    What the heck does making treaties have to do with Senate confirmation of judges?

    The Tamil tigers did not invent suicide bombing, have you never heard of Kamikazes?

    Finally, I don't expect any bloodbath. The Republicans have already spent the past 5 months shrieking at the top of their lungs, I doubt people will pay much attention, barring any unforeseen calamity (she is a meth addict, she hasn't paid her taxes since 1980, etc.) I think it will be about as meaningful to the average American as the confirmation that Alito was, ie. not much.


  4. Hi charo. Can you post a point in Mr. Limbaugh's transcript where I got the "regurgitation" from? No? Odd, isn't it, especially since I never listen to Mr. Limbaugh. Oh well, pesky details. What matters is that your heart knows I'm wrong.

    Reagrding empathy, the question asked of Ms. Sotomayor ought to be along the lines of "where do you draw the line between following the law and following your heart?" One might also inquire as to what rich experience white men lack that a wise Latina possesses, and if white, non-Catholic men possess any useful experiences missing from wise Latinas. It is hard enough to understand the reams of regulations that flow forth from the Congress, but to be handicapped by trying to understand how the Supremes might choose to reinterpret the regulations... well, that's a recipe for confusion. My heart tells me so, therefore it must be true.

  5. pointy, it would be nice if you got her quote correct. In her speech, Judge Sotomayor questioned the famous notion — often invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired Supreme Court colleague, Sandra Day O’Connor — that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion when deciding cases.

    “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"

    Yep, God forbid that she (a woman and a latina) hope to reach a better conclusion than others, nope it should be of the same value as everyone else. How dare anyone hope to be better, and if they are better we should all pretend they are sexless and raceless, and raised in a box on the planet Vulcan.

    Even on basketball teams they will take a player from Europe who doesn't have the stats of an American player because of his style, because of how he will add to the team, because of the intangibles. But such a concept is utterly beyond you, it is easy to see how confused you can be.


  6. Hi, charo. I'm sorry, but could you point out where I quoted Ms. Sotomayor. I'm not sure how I can get a quote correct if I don't actually quote someone.

    You do seem to get the gist, namely, that it doesn't make any difference if one has a Y or X chromosome when reaching a legal conclusion. It doesn't matter if one's DNA codes for more or less melatonin in the skin either. What matters is a rational legal argument, not "life experiences."

    But, in the case that you think life experience ought to be a serious consideration, we now have 5 of 9 Supremes who are Catholic. Adding a 6th, Ms. Sotomayor, would result in insufficient diversity of life experience, so she should be rejected to keep the Court from being unrepresentative of America's religious diversity. Wouldn't a different religious choice add more "style", more "intangibles" to the Court? I doubt you will see my argument as persuasive, and why should you? Who gives a tinker's damn about the religious affiliation of a judge? What matters is legal reasoning and impartiality, not childhood experience or ethnic origin.

    p.s., if we had Vulcans raised in a box who would not be overturned more than half the time by the Supremes, but rather used reason to persuade higher courts of the rightness of their decisions, I would say put them on the Court.

  7. what country are you living in? There are probably a few hundred eminently well qualified individuals on the left for the seat, so how then do you choose? Draw a name out of that hat? It is when you get to that point that you can take other considerations into account, such as sex and ethnicity. But we are starting with the presumption that these candidates are eminently well qualified, if you think she is not make that argument, you can't because it is not true.
    Are you implying she can't reason? As to impartial there is no such thing, we can not divorce ourselves from ourselves and our experiences, at best we can be mindful of their impact on our lives.

    And what is this nonsense about being overturned more than half the time? Do you even have a clue about how few cases the Supreme Court even takes? In point of fact, her circuit court is average in cases heard and overturned, which considering it is a more liberal circuit and the Supreme Court is more Conservative something the right would take some heart in. But, of course, we all know facts are not your strong suit.

    As to Catholics, they are the single largest religious bloc in America, and the most diverse, at some point you run up against hard demographics, in any event I doubt her Catholicism was a consideration. If she were chosen because and only because she were a Catholic even as a Catholic I would be against that, but since that is not the case (and you know it is not, you are reaching)

    As to you not quoting her directly, you referenced her statement and in referencing it you misconstrued its intent. It would have been more intellectually honest had you quoted her, but we know intelligence and honesty aren't your strong suits.