Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: What Exactly Are We Expecting of Our Judges, Again?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What Exactly Are We Expecting of Our Judges, Again?

Is it the Internet Age, or is it just me? I feel like we've been talking about Sonia Sotomayor for ages, but it's still just a week since Obama officially nominated her for the Supreme Court. There had been talk about her before the nomination came in, and that might be part of it. It could also be the single-minded argument of the Republican party branding her a racist (a courageous and valiant stand for them to make, because privileged white males have been downtrodden for far too long).

Aside from the silliness about Sotomayor being a racist, one of the primary complaints that conservatives are airing is that she would use her background as a Latina woman to trump the law. The good folks at SCOTUSblog have shown that there's nothing much to this, but it raises the point of how far, exactly, the right wants judges to go in ignoring their backgrounds. Partially, of course, it depends on whether conservatives think a judge's background works in their favor or not, because, as Jason Linkins pointed out at The Huffington Post, the backgrounds of Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were among their key selling points for their Supreme Court nominations.

But even aside from the requisite right-wing inconsistency, the question is ridiculous. Part of what a judge is supposed to be offering is wisdom, and wisdom only develops out of experience. If we just want a straight reading of the letter of the law, then we don't need a judge at all. We should just get a computer. It wouldn't be hard to simply shift over to digital law, with a 1 for legal and a 0 for illegal. Or, since the Star Trek movie is still doing well, let's just have Obama nominate Mr. Spock (which wouldn't work, of course, because we're still more than 200 years away from Spock's birth). But that's not what we want. We want a judge who will weigh a case by looking at the law as written and perhaps considering its real-life ramifications. No living, breathing human being can help but filter that through her personal experiences and background. I'll admit that how judges allow this to influence their decision-making process can be a fair enough question, but in examining Sotomayor's appeals court record, SCOTUSblog has come up with nothing to suggest that she's beyond the norm, that she's doing anything beyond issuing unremarkable and reasonable decisions.


At 11:52 AM, June 02, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that much of the dynamic between the Dems and the Reps was summed up in "Star Trek III: The Wrath of Khan" in the following exchange:

Kirk: You should take the Vulcan too.
Kruge: No.
Kirk: But why?
Kruge: Because you wish it.

At 9:21 PM, June 02, 2009, Blogger Stevie T said...

Well said.


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