Monday, July 13, 2009

Beyond Sotomayor

Today was the start of confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, as the next appointee to the U S Supreme Court. This piece is not intended as a complete run-down on the comings and goings. But there are a few matters that bear special attention.

Sotomayor was giving a lecture at UC Berkeley Law School in 2001, when she said:

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life."

She has subsequently stood by these remarks when pressed. The burden falls upon her to explain why one physiological trait makes one person a better judge than the next. She may also want to explain how this Republic got by for so long without one in particular.

That's not all she'll have to explain. Last month, "[t]he Supreme Court has ruled that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge."

We might be able to explain this, and other decisions of hers overturned by the High Court (and there were a few of them), by examining her view of the role of the courts. Based upon a speech given in 2005 at Duke Law School, this is most likely what she would tell us.

Um, all of the legal defense funds out there, um, they’re looking for people out there with court of appeals experience, because court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know, I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don’t make law, I know. Um, um — [laughter] — I know. I’m not promoting it, I’m not advocating it, and, I’m … you know. [laughter]

Yes, it's hilarious, as long as you agree with every decision a despot makes. What recourse do you have if they do not? If you want to change the law, that is what your local elected representatives are for. If you don't like the way they make the law, you can vote them out. You can't vote a Federal judge out of office, you big dummy!

But some people who think pretty highly of themselves will be okay with it, just as other republics in ancient history were okay with dictators who placated them.

It doesn't necessarily end well, does it?

Recent decades of "legislating from the bench" have brought our system of jurisprudence, to the point which the Founding Fathers took great pains to avoid. It was their earnest objective, to develop a system of "checks and balances." The term itself is well-known; less well-known is why. Those who established our Republic wished to avoid placing too much power in the hands of too few. The lessons of a grade school civics class have been completely ignored for years, and are being ignored now.

So let's do something about that, and hear from someone already on the High Court.

This final clip is a one-hour interview conducted by Charlie Rose, with Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Put the lame caricatures aside about who's a "fascist" and who isn't, just long enough to learn something. (You might try looking up words in a dictionary before you go spouting them off, but I digress...) And when you do, something like this...

“I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

...might take on a whole new meaning.

(STILL IMAGES: Copyright 2009 by Chris Muir. Used without permission or shame.)

[Yahoo! News has a rundown of the day's events, and a preview of the following day. Click here and here, respectively.]

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