FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sotomayor’s Problem Isn’t That She’s Too Latina

by DAVE LINDORFF

OI don’t know at this point whether Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a good choice for Supreme Court Justice or a bad one.

She certainly is a lousy judge for writers and other creative people, having ruled (and been overruled by an appellate court and then, when that reversal was upheld, by the US Supreme Court in a case called New York Times Inc. v. Tasini) that the Times and periodical publishers could reprint, without any additional compensation, any freelance works they contracted on the basis that they had a general copyright on each entire issue they publish.

And she appears to have rarely met an insurance company that she didn’t feel was more deserving of court succor than any insured person suing an insurer. In a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer,  reporter Joseph N. DiStefano quotes an insurance attorney named Randy Maniloff as saying that in cases involving insurance companies and insurance policyholders “It’s insurers by a landslide.”  Such a pro-corporate position would put her in league with the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas wing of the court, and would be consistant with her pro-corporate stance vis-à-vis writers and artists and copyright law. (In fairness, Sotomayor did rule against an insurance firm and in favor of a policyholder’s family in 2005.)

Having said that Sotomayor shows a disturbing pro-corporate stance in her past rulings, I have to say that the freak-out on the right over Sotomayor’s comments regarding the impact of her being female and Latina on her decisions as a jurist is the height of nonsense and hypocrisy. To watch them frothing, you would think that she was a latter-day William O. Douglass, which is hardly the case.

What Sotomayor said that has the right in a lather was:

“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.”

She made that comment at a lecture in Berkeley in 2001, but it came following this earlier statement:

“Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences…our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice [Sandra Day] 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 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…”

She went on to note:

“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.”

The point is, as long as we have an unequal society, in which some people are denied equal treatment because of race or religion or gender, and we clearly have that type of society in America today, the people from those discriminated-against groups are bound to see the world in a different way than do most white males.

But the elite—the white male editors and TV commentators, the white male politicians, and the white male public—don’t see their own decisions as rooted in their white male expereience. They see their experience as being “normal” and “unbiased.”  It is, to them, only others who are not “normal” like them who are biased, or or who are carrying some kind of chip on their shoulders.

What Sotomayor was saying at Berkeley was simply a fact of life: as a Latina woman, and hopefully as a women who grew up in a poor, working-class, fatherless family, she is going to view the world differently than the white male and even black male or white female colleagues who currently constitute the members of the US Supreme Court. If this were not so, there would be no need to have women on the court at all, or African Americans.

That is obviously ridiculous.

White upper-class males on the court for a century saw nothing wrong with slavery being inflicted on black people, nor did they see anything wrong with denying the vote to people who didn’t own property. White males on the court for a century and a half saw nothing wrong with women not having the vote. For two centuries they saw nothing wrong with white governments using Jim Crow laws to prevent blacks from voting, either. (Many of them still see nothing wrong with such legal obstructionism.)

There are plenty of reasons to oppose President Barack Obama’s appointment of Sotomayor to the Supreme Court—she is not a particularly profound Constitutional scholar and she has a record of accommodating corporate interests at the expense of individuals—but her acknowledging that being female and Latina may have a positive impact on her judicial decisions is not one of them.

If she is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice later this year, as appears likely, one can only hope that she will allow her decisions to be informed by that background, and that she will not just become another  one of “the boys” on the bench.

DAVE LINDORFF  is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail