Judge Sonia Sotomayor will be our next Supreme Court Justice

We will have a new Supreme Court Justice by October 2009, and her name will be Sonia Sotomayor. This is a plain, simple fact.

I waited to write about this because I wanted to see the full range of juvenile, senseless, and viperous statements made be conservative critics of this nomination.

A laughable argument

The most ridiculous and confusing argument against soon-to-be-Justice Sotomayor is that she is unfit to be on the Supreme Court because her personal positions, ethnic heritage, and life experience could influence her decisions. Show me a person who’s life experience doesn’t reflect in their decisions, and I’ll show you a person’s life that is a rudderless, abject failure.

Last I checked, judges are people. Persons even. People, like you, me, your mother, your brother, your neighbor and everyone else you know all have histories, opinions and talents. To deny this is to deny the value of life, family, friendship, education, work, and everything else that happens during our time on this earth.

It is beyond ridiculous then to think that people’s decisions are not impacted by the things that they have seen or that have happened to them. Why must judges divorce themselves from their humanity in the name of something as transient and subjective as the law? Are these people saying that they want law machines and not judges? (Note: I’m absolutely not a lawyer, so I’d love to hear from lawyers on this.)

We elect/appoint people

The actual world and the movie world are different. We don’t live in the world of Terminator or iRobot. When we look for ways to solve problems, to explain happenings, or to interpret law, we look to people, not robots. The idea that judges appointed by conservatives apply no personal thought or empathy when deciding cases is as dishonest and supported neither anecdotally or statistically. The most recent example is [current & most recently appointed] Justice Sam Alito’s comments during his confirmation regarding applying his personal and family experiences to his judgements.

Should disagreement disqualify?

Maybe, maybe not. Disqualify is probably the wrong word, but in the real world, this is about more than qualifications. No one has said that Sotomayor is unqualified because that would be the only argument weaker than the laughable one described above.

Elections have consequences. The should have consequences; that’s the point. It is perfectly legitimate to vote against a judicial nominee because you disagree with their ideology as demonstrated in their record. It is not, however, legitimate to vote against a nominee because they do what all other people do: think about their history when making decisions in the present.

I pray that one day we can have an honest dialogue in our government and body politic without the salacious, counter-productive, dishonest rhetoric. If you don’t like her record, say you don’t like her record. That’d be a lot easier on all of us.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

5 responses to “Judge Sonia Sotomayor will be our next Supreme Court Justice”

  1. Edward says :

    Garlin,

    Your opinion is spot on. Because I’m an attorney, I tend to listen to every word and place them in and out of context to see how the meanings change. “The Law” can be very similar. What I thought was quite interesting was the reaction of critics when Obama said he wanted a justice with “empathy”. Persons who lack empathy are defined as sociopaths in our society.

    As a group, we all want the authorities to be objective machines when we know that the mechanisms that put them in place are made by us. When the mechanism is not made by us, we want authorities to be kind and understanding with the ability to make great leaps in logic to see things our way when necessary.

    That, in a nutshell, is the fight between Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives and Progressives, Tom and Jerry, Wiley Coyote and Road Runner, etc.

    It is obvious that Sotomayor and every other justice calls upon their life experience to make decisions and…..wait for it……”establish policy”. It is intellectually dishonest to argue otherwise.

    Peace,
    Eddie

  2. Garlin II says :

    Eddie, thanks for your opinion. If I had to have a litmus test for a judge, I’d want it to be one that measures their ability to state reality, like she did when saying judges at times establish policy.

    At the risk of getting off topic, I think what you are hinting at when referring to systems “made by us” are those systems with constructions & processes we understand, agree with, and have the ability to change if/when we see fit. This is explains, for example, the way people like our electoral process and disdain the Electoral College. The Electoral College is one of the most opaque political process we have in America.

    One Love. One II.

  3. steven says :

    I agree with Edward. If we had “legal machines” then this whole nomination process would be unnecesary, as whoever was at the helm would be bound by centuries of precedent.

    However, law, like the sabbath, was made for the people and not the people for the law. The fact of the matter is judges have a tremendous amount of leeway to make decisions because the law is full of gray areas. If it was not, then people like me would be out a job. This is especially true at the Supreme Court level. If a case has made it from the trial court to that level, then it goes without saying that there is some disagreement or else it would have been sorted out way beyond this point.

    So if the supreme court is hearing cases for which there are no clear cut answers, what will they fall back on? Their biases, beliefs and experiences. What you hope is that the judges do not become the proverbial “man with a hammer.” These are obviously very smart, disciplined and accomplished people. But we know that people will use their intellect to justify the rankest hypocrisy. I have seen judges say a decision was based on one thing, but you got the feeling something else came into play. But because of the legal fiction of unbiasedness that is necessary for our system to work, it is pretty much unasailable. But in reality, we know this is untenable.

    The point we are getting at is that regardless of what people are, conservatives or liberals, we should have people who are good and are able, when it is appropriate, to put their hangups to the side and do justice. If that is a place you come from, you come out on the right side of history most of the time.

  4. mvymvy says :

    Speaking of change and the Electoral College system . . .

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

    The bill is currently endorsed by 1,777 state legislators — 829 sponsors (in 48 states) and an additional 948 legislators who have cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware –75%, Maine — 71%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 73% , Massachusetts — 73%, New York — 79%, and Washington — 77%.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 28 state legislative chambers, in small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes — 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  5. Garlin II says :

    @mvymvy,

    I’m vaguely familiar with this legislation thanks to some well-informed friends of mine here in Washington state.

    What do you see as the primary argument against this legislation?

    One Love. One II.

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