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The Wise Latina Method

WWWLD? That’s the question Sen. Jeff Sessions and the other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee should ask themselves after this morning’s confirmation hearings: What Would a Wise Latina Do?

Judge Sonia Sotomayor explained it all, I thought, quite well. She has personal feelings, emotions, experiences, prejudices and all the other baggage that human beings carry around. But when she considers a ruling, she said, she does her best to put all that aside and let herself be guided only by the facts and the law. Only by being fully aware of the full inventory of her baggage, she indicated, can she be certain to have properly disregarded it.

Sessions, in his cross-examination, was obviously skeptical. He seems to believe that judges uphold a Platonic ideal of complete, pristine objectivity. My take on Sotomayor is that she believes in objectivity as a goal toward which imperfect judges must strive. Let me suggest that Sessions try her method and see how it works.

The senator should examine his preconceptions -- for example, the way he pointed out that a Circuit Court colleague who disagreed with Sotomayor on the New Haven firefighters case is "of Puerto Rican ancestry," as if all Puerto Ricans should think alike. He should shove any such notions out of the way and look only at the facts and the law -- the thousands of cases that have crossed Sotomayor’s desk in her years as a federal trial and appellate judge. Is there anything improper? Is there any indication that she puts her thumb on the scales of justice to make them tilt one way or the other? Does she favor litigants of any color, gender or heritage over others? Does she follow precedent?

Unless Sessions unearths something that teams of conservative oppo-researchers haven’t been able to find, I’m afraid the Wise Latina method will lead him to vote to confirm.

By Eugene Robinson  | July 14, 2009; 2:28 PM ET
Categories:  Robinson  | Tags:  Eugene Robinson  
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Comments

I think you should try tempering your racist attitudes -- which are evident in abundance.

Posted by: johnbowers | July 14, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Sir, she DID put a thumb on the scale in the Ricci case. Apparently YOU were not affected. if you were, you'd want to cut that thumb off!

Posted by: Acquisano | July 14, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

"Sir, she DID put a thumb on the scale in the Ricci case."

Howso?

Posted by: VTDuffman | July 14, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

What about Italian-American Sam Alito? He said this at his confirmation hearing:

"When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account."

Maybe he put his thumb on the scale to help out Italian-American Frank Ricci?

Posted by: seantolsen | July 14, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Sam Alito used his opening statement to emphasize how his experience as an Italian-American influences his judicial decision-making:

"But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country" . . . .

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account."

A couple of weeks ago Justice Alito cast a vote in favor of an Italian-American plaintiff in a discrimination - affirmative action case.

Hmmmm.....

...and the difference between Alito's comments/actions and Sotomayor's?

None.

Give it a rest. She is as good as confirmed.

Posted by: toritto | July 14, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor's rulings and her off-the-bench speeches are many times contradictory and rather troubling.

As a lower-court judge she is certainly aware that her opinions are subject to review and reversal and so might have tempered those opinions because of that reality. Once she is on the highest court, that oversight is removed and she might be emboldened to allow her to insinuate her very public, very liberal persona into decisions that are essentially non-reversible by anyone except her own court or by amendment to the US constitution.

Posted by: spamsux1 | July 14, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Basically, she is talking one talk and walking a different walk.

Who is the real Sotomayor?

Posted by: spamsux1 | July 14, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

spamsux1: If there are any radicals on the Court they are Scalia and Alito and Thomas.

:-)

Led by the ultimate white man Chief Justice Roberts ou can feel good that your Court is still 5-4 even with Sottomayor. All you need to do is convince that pu$$y Kennedy to back right wing decisions.

Posted by: toritto | July 14, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

@toritto:

You say:
"Led by the ultimate white man Chief Justice Roberts ou can feel good that your Court is still 5-4 even with Sottomayor. All you need to do is convince that pu$$y Kennedy to back right wing decisions."

Thank you for your eloquent, erudite response.

Posted by: spamsux1 | July 14, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Do these idiot rednecks really believe that calling this woman a "racist" will work? This is ridiculous! There is a disturbing level of mental deficiency here. It's like when they insist on denying that the Holocaust ever happened.

These people aren't simply dumb; they're crazy! I thought maybe it was some kind of blatant denial ploy in the face of three centuries of evidence, but they really believe that they are the victims here. Fascinating!

Posted by: repubsux | July 14, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

spamsux1: If Clarence Thomas can be on the Court just about anyone can be on the Court.

:-)

Posted by: toritto | July 14, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse


That'll teach her to brag about her ethnic background.

Especially, since, you know, white anglo-saxon men aren't allowed to anymore.

That's what really cheezed off these guys, anyway.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | July 14, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the Post has written enough about her today.

Posted by: nmoses | July 14, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

So these Republican men are going to tick off Latinos and women by their stupid questioning if a seasoned and respected jurist. And their party supported Thomas and Scalia and Alito. Give me a break.

Posted by: sed81650 | July 14, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Sorry - should have been OF a seasoned and respected jurist.

Posted by: sed81650 | July 14, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

The anmesia of Sam Alito and the Italian American experience:

http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/unbound/articles/2UNB019-Fortunato.pdf

Posted by: toritto | July 14, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Spamsux1--- You should talk. You're making things up. Your innuendo is not subtle. There is absolutely nothing "rather troubling" about Sotomayor. You are not troubled at all; you are not curious about the "real" Sotomayor - you're making that up to be pro-conservative. Please cut it out.

Posted by: Urnesto | July 14, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I think that Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed and, from what I have read and seen to date, I think that this is a fair outcome. Judge Sotomayor is extraordinarily well-qualified for a seat on the Supreme Court and her judicial record is a reasonable one.

That said-- and having read Judge Sotomayor's speech on the subject in full-- I share Senator Sessions' disquiet over the "wise Latina" remark. The view that ethnicity should shape legal opionions deserves to be vetted. I agree that judges should be of diverse gender, ethnicty and creed, but judges need to take a more inclusive view in their rulings from the bench.

Posted by: ANetliner | July 14, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Here are some scary answers to substantive questions.

1.
When asked "Now, is that your understanding of how the Supreme Court has evaluated whether a right should be deemed fundamental?"

She answered"And whether that framework and the language you quoted are precise or not, I haven't examined that framework in a while to know if that language is precise or not. I'm not suggesting it's not, Senator. I just can't affirm that description."

In other words she doesn't know.

2.
She also had no idea what the real issues were in the Kelo takings decision. She completely misunderstood the two cruxes of the case.

She said it was about "blight" when the crux of the case was that it did not involve "blight."

She said it was about the government contacting a private party to provide a public good when it was only for given to the private party for the sole the good of that private party.

3.
FEINGOLD: But what would be the general test for incorporation?

SOTOMAYOR: One must remember that the Supreme Court's analysis in its prior precedent predated its principles or the development of cases discussing the incorporation doctrine. Those are newer cases. nd so the framework established in those cases may well inform -- as I said, I've hesitant of prejudging and saying they will or won't because that will be what the parties are going to be arguing in the litigation. But it is... I was just suggesting that I do recognize that the court's more recent jurisprudence in incorporation with respect to other amendments has taken -- has been more recent.

This is total gibberish. Does she even know what the Due Process test for incorporation is? Maybe this is why she ignored 100 years of due process precedent in deciding a 2nd ammendment case. Scary.

4.
Here is an instance where she didn't even understand the facts and reasoning of the Diden takings case which she presided over. Not to mention her ruling in this case is aburd as well.
http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2009_07_12-2009_07_18.shtml#1247600417

Posted by: gwlaw99 | July 14, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I just finished reading Mr. Robinson's latest column. Seriously, the Republican senators are doing their due diligence. When being 'targeted' is anything like being 'Borked' then I think the GOP will be in trouble. Standing up for your principles will not get you in trouble.
I know Ms. Sotomayor will be confirmed. However, it should be a party-line vote. After all, our current President set the standard for how to vote on judicial nominees.

Posted by: polijunkie100 | July 14, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

What blows my mind about Robinson's comments is the continuing refusal of 'minority' communities to look at their own problems and work to solve them, instead blaming others, and then using either Congress or the SCOTUS to impose a solution on everyone else rather than think it might be individual responsibility that it is a problem...

The whole Michael Jackson tragedy is a prime example of what's wrong with 'black culture'... and it continues to puzzle me, as a white man, why an entire ethnic group that has been given ample opportunities to improve its lot continues to be mired (as a group) in crime, drugs, dependence on welfare (and to be fair, so are other ethnic groups), but it continues to be the only ethnic group in America that has received more breaks and yet continues to complain its being discriminated against.

I do not like Sotomayor, but its not her sex or color that I care about; she wants to legislate quotas from the bench like the New Haven case and that's what tearing this country apart and causing what I believe will be wholesale ignoring of Congressional laws in the next 10-15 years as liberal elites try to impose their version of the 'way things ought to be' on the rest of us. We're just going to end up as dysfunctional as California. Rather than put a level playing field for everyone regardless of gender, sexual preference, or color of their skin (there is NO such thing as a race other than the human race), what liberals (and conservatives to be fair) try to do is put their people in power. And that's why more and more people won't vote.

Posted by: doublesecretrotation | July 14, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

There is one thing which many English-speaking-only Americans are ignorant; the use of the subjunctive in Spanish. As a Spanish teacher, I have found that teaching the use of the subjunctive mood in Spanish to Americans is difficult, as it is rarely used in modern English. The entire phrase "I would hope" indicates that she was speaking of hopes, dreams, and aspirations, not her personal reality. As Spanish is Judge Sotomayor's first language, it has a profound influence on her use of language. I look forward to her contributions to the Court.

Posted by: KLNobles1 | July 14, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Wow all these Republicans passionate about racism.

One really needs to wonder where the hell they were during the campaign, when Palin kept dog-whistling about "real Americans."

(silence)

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 14, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

KLNobles:

My Italian teacher used to wear a t-shirt that read

"Io non capisco il congiuntivo"

I bet hardly a single reader here does either.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 14, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Mr Robinson:

The supreme courts decision in the 2004 elections is proof positive that Judges do not simple make rulings based on case law but on the own set of prejudices. The Repbulican court used the law to rationalize why in the US why Florida should stop counting votes. Judge Sotomayor rationalized the use of law to throw out what was otherwise a valid test by the City of New Haven. Just like the minority found an excuse to toss an otherwise unfair test. I find you in particular unable to see issues from other than your own black prospective.

Posted by: politicalobserver1 | July 14, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Judge Sotomayor is well-qualified and should be quickly confirmed. I fear it will not be quick though, because some of the Senators are having too much fun making her out to be what she is not.

What will the fallout be of their strategy? What good is it if some senators are re-elected to Congress, if they weakened their own party in the process?

Evidently, the GOP is still in denial. Will 2010 make them see? Are they capable of seeing?

Posted by: Kelly14 | July 14, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

eugene, i know this will come to a shock to you but every body has feelings, emotions, baggage, yada, yada, yada but that doesnt mean you weave them into your professional life.

otherwise, you have strange definition of professionalism.

Posted by: dummypants | July 14, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Only by being fully aware of the full inventory of her baggage, she indicated, can she be certain to have properly disregarded it.
***********

nice try. except she said the exact opposite of that in 3 different speeches. if her baggage is only there to be disgarded then how would it help her make a "better" decision, which is the word she used.

sotomayor handled it as well as she could, she disclaimed everything she said in those prior speeches. this was a major victory for a race nuetral future, and a major defeat for those trendy by vaccuous race obsessed theories peddled by out of touch oppinanators like this author.

Posted by: dummypants | July 14, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

WWWLD? That’s the question Sen. Jeff Sessions and the other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee should ask themselves after this morning’s confirmation hearings: What Would a Wise Latina Do?
************

she would disclaim all of her controversial comments, just as republicans have been demanding all along.

she could have gottne this over months ago, and not had to undergo the embarressment of doing her mea culpa on national TV.

Posted by: dummypants | July 14, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Worth a repeat:

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Sam Alito used his opening statement to emphasize how his experience as an Italian-American influences his judicial decision-making:

"But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country" . . . .

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account."

A couple of weeks ago Justice Alito cast a vote in favor of an Italian-American plaintiff in a discrimination - affirmative action case.

Hmmmm.....

...and the difference between Alito's comments/actions and Sotomayor's?

None.

Give it a rest. She is as good as confirmed.

Posted by: toritto | July 14, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Robinson, why do you and so many others keep harping on this Wise Latina remark?

It was a stupid crack, but nowhere near as offensive as many of Judge Sotomayor's other remarks, like the one I first read quoted in this paper, to the effect that the judge believes Latinos can't do well on the SAT because it's "culturally biased" against them.

How can anyone possibly argue in good faith that algebra is "culturally biased"?

Right now, attacks like yours seem entirely reminiscent of the mountains of abuse heaped on the politically incorrect opponents of the Iraq invasion a few years back.

However, as a liberal Democrat, I feel compelled to say that J. Sotomayor's comments strongly suggest that, in her heart of hearts, she is indeed biased. And once someone like that is given an essentially unimpeachable position, we will come to regret having put them there.

Posted by: Itzajob | July 14, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

The Pulitzer-prize winning Robinson thinks he scores a big one, recounting Sessions' pointing out that a fellow Puerto Rican disagreed with Sotomayor, and claiming this indicated Sessions wonders why Sotomayor didn't agree with the other judge since they are both P.R. HE WAS POINTING OUT THAT THE OTHER JUDGE WAS NOT A RACIST, MR. PULITZER PRIZE-WINNER.

Posted by: chatard | July 14, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Robinson seems to think that no one should ask the tough questions. What do you think, Mr Robinson? The Senate should just rubber stamp the Executive branches recommendations, then break for lunch? You're just sniping, pal.

Posted by: primegrop | July 14, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

"The senator should examine his preconceptions -- for example, the way he pointed out that a Circuit Court colleague who disagreed with Sotomayor on the New Haven firefighters case is "of Puerto Rican ancestry," as if all Puerto Ricans should think alike."
+++++++
Boy, wasn't that a cringe moment -- Sessions is an idiot.

Posted by: creatia52 | July 15, 2009 1:22 AM | Report abuse

For years Robinson has posited that justice Thomas' jurisprudence betrays his race. Today Robinson says "as if all Puerto Ricans should think alike." You've come a long way, Eugene; of course, one's ethnicity doesn't predetermine their legal philosophy. Progress indeed.

GJ

Posted by: hiho1 | July 15, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse

STATEMENT OF MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON THE ATTACKS ON JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR AND THE PUERTO RICAN LEGAL DEFENSE FUND IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE:

'It is disappointing but not surprising that another Supreme Court nominee is facing baseless personal attacks.

Only in Washington could someone's many years of volunteer service to a highly regarded nonprofit organization that has done so much good for so many be twisted into a negative. ...

When I discussed Judge Sotomayor with President Obama in the Oval Office and gave her my enthusiastic recommendation, I knew that some would try to play politics and engage in guilt-by-association attacks.'

Signed an ex- republican
Mayor of New York
Think he knows a bit about politics?

Maybe not- country first folks have their own style and strategy for the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Posted by: sasha2008 | July 15, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

She could have just stated-

"I don't recall"

How is that for upholding the Constitution Sen Graham?

Posted by: sasha2008 | July 15, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I think, after reading the first page of comments, that the "Post" needs to moderate what is written here..
Personal comments always seem to demean the writer of them, the most.

Posted by: jetcitysteve | July 15, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

What a double standard Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have. I don't remember them asking questions of Scalia and Alito about their Catholic religion as something that might influence them. Alito even voluteered that his Italian and Catholic background would, yet none on the Democratic side tried to suggest that they would be prejudiced. While indirectly accusing sotomayor or racism (Limbaugh, Buchanan, and Beck directly), they display a lot of not so well disguished racism or at least the prejudice inherent in the Stance that white male represents normality and neutrality and everyone else suspect for prejudice. Anyone involved in the historic civil rights movement of the last fifty years is now considered incapable of dispensing justice to whites. Ridiculous.

Posted by: DWSouthern | July 15, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I think a wise white man can make better decisions than a black president

Posted by: romeror2k | July 15, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor was prepped very well- not to talk like a flaming liberal so as not to displease the general public. Had she carried high the banners of liberalism- gun control. homosexual marriage, abortion on demand beginning at age 12 etc. she would have risked her nomination. Obama did a good job masking his extreme left positions during the campaign. Had he run on the cap and trade legislation, his deficits, his disastrous health care "reform" bill, his no secret ballot for prospective union members, he would not have been elected. He kept his mouth shut and relied on his personality popularity. His election will turn out to be catastrophic for the US.

Posted by: mhr614 | July 16, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

"The whole Michael Jackson tragedy is a prime example of what's wrong with 'black culture'... and it continues to puzzle me, as a white man, why an entire ethnic group that has been given ample opportunities to improve its lot continues to be mired (as a group) in crime, drugs, dependence on welfare (and to be fair, so are other ethnic groups), but it continues to be the only ethnic group in America that has received more breaks and yet continues to complain its being discriminated against." - doublesecretrotation

The above statement is why race relations can't move forward. You insist on seeing all blacks as a group. If I see (continuously in TX) white people behaving in a manner other than what's acceptable, I don't say, there is a problem with the white community. I know there's a problem with those particular white people. If you want to talk about the news, the majority of serial killers have been white, but I don't think all white people are serial killers. (and to be fair, I see whites on the news for crime about as often as I see black, hispanic)When you and others like you are ready to first accept that we are individuals just like you, then we can have productive talks on race relations.

Posted by: rhdscott | July 17, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

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