FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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

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

 

 

More articles by:

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).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 25, 2019
Rannie Amiri
Instigators of a Persian Gulf Crisis
Patrick Cockburn
Trump May Already be in Too Deep to Avoid War With Iran
Paul Tritschler
Hopeful Things
John Feffer
Deep Fakes: Will AI Swing the 2020 Election?
Binoy Kampmark
Bill Clinton in Kosovo
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Japanese Conjuncture
Edward Hunt
Is Mexico Winding Down or Winding up the Drug War?
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump’s Return to Full-Spectrum Dominance
Steve Kelly
Greed and Politics Should Not Drive Forest Policy
Stephen Carpa
Protecting the Great Burn
Colin Todhunter
‘Modified’: A Film About GMOs and the Corruption of the Food Supply for Profit
Martin Billheimer
The Gothic and the Idea of a ‘Real Elite’
Elliot Sperber
Send ICE to Hanford
June 24, 2019
Jim Kavanagh
Eve of Destruction: Iran Strikes Back
Nino Pagliccia
Sorting Out Reality From Fiction About Venezuela
Jeff Sher
Pickin’ and Choosin’ the Winners and Losers of Climate Change
Howard Lisnoff
“Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran”
Robert Fisk
The West’s Disgraceful Silence on the Death of Morsi
Dean Baker
The Old Japan Disaster Horror Story
David Mattson
The Gallatin Forest Partnership and the Tyranny of Ego
George Wuerthner
How Mountain Bikes Threaten Wilderness
Christopher Ketcham
The Journalist as Hemorrhoid
Manuel E. Yepe
Yankee Worship of Bombings and Endless Wars
Mel Gurtov
Iran—Who and Where is The Threat?
Wim Laven
Revisiting Morality in the Age of Dishonesty
Thomas Knapp
Facebook’s Libra Isn’t a “Cryptocurrency”
Weekend Edition
June 21, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Brett Wilkins
A Brief History of US Concentration Camps
Rob Urie
Race, Identity and the Political Economy of Hate
Rev. William Alberts
America’s Respectable War Criminals
Paul Street
“So Happy”: The Trump “Boom,” the Nation’s Despair, and the Decline of Joe Biden
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ask Your Local Death Squad
Dr. Vandana Shiva
Fake Food, Fake Meat: Big Food’s Desperate Attempt to Further the Industrialisation of Food
Eric Draitser
The Art of Trade War: Is Trump Winning His Trade War against China?
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s Russian Problem
Jonathan Cook
Forget Trump’s Deal of the Century: Israel Was Always on Course to Annexation
Andrew Levine
The Biden Question
Stanley L. Cohen
From Tel Aviv to Tallahassee
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Collapses 70 Years Early
Kenn Orphan
Normalizing Atrocity
Ajamu Baraka
No Dare Call It Austerity
Ron Jacobs
The Redemptive Essence of History
David Rosen
Is Socialism Possible in America?
Dave Lindorff
The US as Rogue Nation Number 1
Joseph Natoli
The Mad King in His Time
David Thorstad
Why I’m Skipping Stonewall 50
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail