Kia Franklin

The Sotomayor Buzz

sotomayor.jpg (Photo courtesy of Pace University.)

I just finished watching the live announcement that Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor is President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. (Here's some coverage from NPR and New York Times)

In her speech, Judge Sotomayor pledged to "respect and respond to the concerns" of all who come before her in court. She also said, "I strive to never forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses, and the government."

Her speech was also heavily grounded in the personal:

"Never in my wildest childhood imaginings, did I ever... dream that I would live this moment... Mr. President, I greatly appreciate the honor you are giving me... I hope that as the Senate and the American people learn more about me, they will see that I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences."

Judge Sotomayor was nominated to federal judgeship by President George H. W. Bush, is a graduate of Yale Law School, has worked in various aspects of the profession from criminal prosecution to commercial litigation, and has a riveting personal story, with some interesting parallels to President Obama's life.

I'm intrigued. Any specific info on her stance on consumer justice issues and tort "reform," send 'em our way.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 10:30 AM, May 26, 2009 in Supreme Court
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Well, Sherman Joyce of the American Tort Deform Association is weighing in against her nomination, so that's a good sign she's solid on issues involving consumer justice and democratic access to the courts.

Posted by: Lee Cokorinos | May 26, 2009 3:18 PM

Thanks Lee. Good to "see" you. Hope you are well!

Posted by: Kia | May 26, 2009 4:06 PM

Ms Sotomayer is a bigot who should not be confirmed

"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." -- Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in her Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law in 2001

Subtitute the word 'white' for 'Latina', black' for 'white' and interchange 'woman' and male' and the authors of this site would be screaming about the nomination of such a candidate to the ANY court

Posted by: Avenger | May 27, 2009 6:48 AM

She appears to be a champion of Legislating from the Bench or as she put it "to set policy". So much for the seperation of powers.

Posted by: throckmorton | May 27, 2009 7:58 AM


Either you did not read the whole speech or you choose to pull it out of context to mislead. I'll assume it's the former. The speech was published by Boalt (UC Berkeley). Here's what she actually said:

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice 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 Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also 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. Second, 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.

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. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition what a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see.

I highlight that last portion because I think that's a keen observation about humanity in general, not just judges. Like Avenger is choosing to see the facts a certain way, out of context, many people fail to see the realities that others are living. That's why the "empathy" factor--as vague as it may seem--is a unique element of this discussion about the Supreme Court. It recognizes the importance of people being able to see beyond their own experiences to imagine that of another's, and of people being able to draw from their own experiences when they bring out a unique and important perspective.

Posted by: Kia | May 27, 2009 3:02 PM

also, avenger, how about Judge Sotomayor instead of Ms Sotomayor?

throckmorton, it seems you've done the same thing avenger did--pulled a statement she made completely out of context. the truth is--and it seems that this is what judge sotomayor was suggesting--at the fed appeals level, policy questions get answered. either way a ruling goes, it ultimately results in a sort of setting of policy. people in the legal profession seem not to like to admit that. we like to pretend that the separation of powers means that the judiciary ONLY interprets the law, the leg. ONLY writes the law. that's not how it works-it's called checks and balances and it has always been the court's role to help clarify questions of policy, deferring of course to legislative intent and other indicators and standards, not flying off the handle, but offering a reasoned, reasonable judgment. and yes, this impacts policy. to act like it doesn't is just to accept this weird mythology about how the law works. let's get real here.

it looks like people are making mountains out of molehills. i still have yet to see anything of concern.

Posted by: Kia | May 27, 2009 3:12 PM

Whether in or out of context (and I don't see how the entirety of the speech changes anything) , it is an outrageous comment for a judge to make. If any white male said , in any context :

"I would hope that a wise White man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a black female who hasn't lived that life."

... you would be painting that white male with swastikas and KKK hoods. Not just you but your wingnut compadres at your linked sites such as DailyKos

Posted by: avenger | May 27, 2009 11:21 PM


let us not confuse acknowledging how race/gender add insight and inform our life perspectives with elevating a person's perspective simply because of their race/gender. judge sotomayor is not saying because she's a latina her perspective is inherently better than that of white men. she was speaking in the context of "the role of judicial diversity in determining race and sex discrimination cases" discussing how, esp w/ respect to gender, anti-discrim law didn't even really exist in this country until relatively recently and perhaps developed so slowly due to the absence of people on the bench who understand what it's like to be discriminated against.

to paraphrase sotomayor: clearly, white male judges (with, dare i say, empathy) have decided important cases where they've had to imaginine what it's like to go through discrimination, and they've done it well. but otherwise brilliant white male judges in our nation's history have also made terrible decisions regarding discrimination, decisions a judge from another background living in social reality probably would not have ever made.

the whole point of acknowledging the richness of the experience and perspective of a latina woman from a single parent household in the bronx is to recognize that these perspectives haven't always been valued, and haven't always been taken into consideration when laws are being made, interpreted, and clarified. perhaps that's why we've taken so long to get where we are in terms of anti-discrimination work.

Posted by: Kia | May 28, 2009 12:21 PM

Earl Warren came up with the Miranda Warning because of his experience as a prosecutor in Oakland, California. He saw how "confessions" were obtained first hand. When he would travel in the South, as a Supreme Court Justice, His driver was not allowed to either stay in the same hotel, or accompany him in the restaurants. That experience had a great impact on him; he understood separate is not equal. Today, most Judges have had very little "life experiences" that allow them to relate or understand how the application of the law impacts or affects lower income, blue collar or even the middle class. A good number of today's Judges have never experience adversity or, for that matter, discrimination or retaliation. They have never been "nickled and dimed" and have mostly been in the superior bargaining position. Most of today's jurists could afford to just walk away from an unpleasant situation; they never "needed" the job.

Posted by: ken | May 28, 2009 5:25 PM

Nice rationalization, Kia but it's still pure b.s.

Posted by: avenger | May 28, 2009 11:35 PM

it's not a "rationalization." it's the way it is.

Posted by: kia | May 30, 2009 5:02 PM

Sotomayor is a traitor belonging to a Mexican supremacist group. Their policy is to retake the American Southwest by violence and reunify it with Mexico. Black folks will not fare well under this racist. The Mexican is the biggest anti-black racist on earth, the biggest anti-semite. They do not even feel any need to disguise their language of racism. Think Southern Whites in the 1920's. That is how they feel free to talk. In Los Angeles, there is open hunting season on black folks, kids just playing in the street. A concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing is ongoing. Blacks will be first, Jews next, then all whites will be driven out of LA if the bosses of this Hispanic Supremacist is confirmed. The Mayor is Hispanic and may secretly support or even work for this supremacist group as their agent. Kia supports this horrible person because left wing ideology trumps even the survival of black folks.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 30, 2009 8:47 PM