Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: A Supreme Court Nominee from the Bronx

The nomination of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the nation's highest court to fill the seat vacated by outgoing Supreme Court Justice David Souter will likely succeed, but not without some degree of controversy.

There's enough material out there on Sotomayer onto which folks with myriad viewpoints can latch and make hay. Conservatives, for example, are ticked that she described the U.S. Appeals Court as have a law-making role, not an interpretative one. (During a panel discussion she said: "[The] Court of Appeals is where policy is made. I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don't make law. I know. Okay. I know. I'm not promoting it. And I'm not advocating it.")

Plus there's that inflammatory comment Sotomayor made a few years ago that's been talk radio fodder this afternoon about how people's life experiences come into play when judges render legal opinions: "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."

The web site Politico described Sotomayor's positions on the wedge issue of abortion as "murky:" "In 17 years on the federal bench, she has issued no opinions dealing directly with abortion rights. And in two cases dealing tangentially with the issue -- involving anti-abortion protesters and the government right to limit abortion-related speech by foreign recipients of U.S. aid -- the appeals court judge's ruling favored abortion opponents. Still, anti-abortion forces are convinced that [President] Obama would not nominate Sotomayor without being confident that she supports abortion rights."

But on one thing, I think people along the various points on the political spectrum can agree: She's got a great story. Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx housing project with her parents, born in Puerto Rico, and brother. Her dad died when she was 9 and her mother, a nurse, worked like crazy to pay for parochial school for her two children. Sotomayer, who was an avid fan of Nancy Drew mysteries as a child, according to the New York Times bio on her here, went on to attend Princeton on a scholarship and then Yale Law School, worked as an assistant district attorney and a corporate litigator before becoming a judge. Then there's the story about how Sotomayer "saved baseball" during the MLB baseball strike in the mid-1990s. ("She ended a long baseball strike [in 1995], briskly ruling against the owners in favor of the players," the Times wrote.)

The most moving moment in the announcement of her nomination occurred when she tried to describe how much she appreciates everything her mother did to help make this moment possible and she teared up. No matter what happens during this summer's confirmation process -- save for a scandal, she'll almost certainly be confirmed, though not without some protest over the justices-as-lawmakers comment -- it is heartening to hear a success story like Sotomayor's. (To hear her remarks, go about 11+ minutes into the video.)

1 comment:

Vera said...

I haven't studied up in detail on Supreme Court justices, but I think Sotomayer is likely well-qualified to serve. However, imagine a white man saying exactly what Sotomayer said, but in support of the "white-man" heritage. [ie. "I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman who hasn't lived that life."] If you think that Sotomayer's quote is acceptable and the reverse is not, then you are part of the continuing racist/sexist problem in America. As long as any of us continues to think that the color of our skin, or what sits between our legs makes us more or less able, or more or less correct, then we will not advance to a "post-racial" "post-sexist" environment.