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Key Excerpt: Kohl and Sotomayor on Affirmative Action

CQ Transcriptions

KOHL: Judge, first, I'd like to discuss the issue of affirmative action. We can all agree that it is good for our society when employers, schools, and government institutions encourage diversity. On the other hand, the consideration of ethnicity or gender should not trump qualifications or turn into a rigid quota system.

Without asking you how you would rule in any particular case, what do you think of affirmative action? Do you believe that affirmative action is a necessary part of our society today?

Do you agree with Justice O'Connor that she expects in 25 years the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to promote diversity? Do you believe affirmative action is more justified in education than in employment? Or do you think it makes no difference?

SOTOMAYOR: The question of whether affirmative action is necessary in our society or not and what form it should take is always, first, a legislative determination, in terms of legislative or government employer determination, in terms of what issue it is addressing and what remedy it is looking to structure.

The Constitution promotes and requires the equal protection of law of all citizens in its 14th Amendment. To ensure that protection, there are situations in which race in some form must be considered; the courts have recognized that. Equality requires effort, and so there are some situations in which some form of race has been recognized by the court.

SOTOMAYOR: It is firmly my hope, as it was expressed by Justice O'Connor in her decision involving the University of Michigan Law School admissions criteria, that in 25 years, race in our society won't be needed to be considered in any situation. That's the hope. And we've taken such great strides in our society to achieve that hope, but there are situations in which there are compelling state interests and the admissions case that Justice O'Connor was looking at, the court recognized that in the education field.

Read the entire exchange between Sen. Kohl and Judge Sotomayor.

By  |  July 14, 2009; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Affirmative Action  
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