Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Supreme Court Justice Nomination

Just a quick thought...

From the person the President has nominated to be our next Supreme Court Justice:

"Our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor [Martha] Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." [U.C. Berkeley School of Law, 10/26/2001]

Switch the phrases "white male" and "Latina woman" and tell me if a white man who makes such a statement has any hope of being nominated in today's society.


Kenny said...

we're now fully in the age of identity politics

Jeff said...

Kenny, we've been there for a while. Like for 200 years.

Incidentally, here's the rest of the speech, which moderates the excerpt you quoted somewhat:

"Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see."

So people who have been subject to discrimination can see discrimination more clearly than those who haven't? How racist.

-Dave said...

Or perhaps they'll see it where it doesn't exist... which I would call racist. Sometimes, making someone more sensitive to something can also make them over-sensitive, which makes the increasing sensitivity - without considering from where they start - a neutral thing.

That said, I just quoted a blurb I noticed on CNN while looking at the judge's bio.

The more noticeable double standard, though, is still the sort of thing that is perhaps less crazy in full context, but which would be excerpted by a white man's opponents were he nominated, and held up publicly as evidence that he's clearly unfit.

The judge actually looks like a decent judge (in my profoundly limited and ill-researched opinion). The only other thing I noticed was that in a number of the cases that were highlighted int he CNN bio, there were several that were summarized as showing considerable dissent with her reasoning, even when the court upheld the final decision.

I'm not sure what I make of that.

Jeff said...

Well, she's a liberal justice, and there are pretty much only conservative courts above her, so of course there is going to be a lot of dissent with her reasoning. You'd kind of expect it, really.

I hear you on the oversensitivity part. But I think that works into Sotomayor's larger point - that groups of people with diverse perspectives ought to be deciding cases. The privileged white guy is included in that. I don't think Sotomayor is saying privileged white guys ought to be kept off the bench - rather, that we need more than one perspective up there, and having a bench made up of all privileged white guys limits our ability to benefit from that diversity of perspective.

And on Sotomayor specifically, it appears that she's been more than willing to reject discrimination claims if they're not well proven, so I'm not that worried about oversensitivity with her.

Ben said...

Jeff basically said what I wanted to say but better. (That phrase sound familiar, Dave and Kenny?)

I just wanted to shamelessly plug my blog, where the discussion of identity politics has also sprung up from out of nowhere b/c of Sotomayor.