Within minutes of President Obama naming Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his pick to replace Justice David Souter at the Supreme Court, I received a call from my father in Puerto Rico wanting to know what I thought. “Well, Dad,” I started to respond. “She’s from Puerto Rico, you know,” he interjected. That’s when I knew I needed to write about this issue.
Being a Hispanic woman does not qualify Judge Sotomayor to be a Supreme Court Justice. Yes, her story is inspiring to all Americans, especially Hispanics, not to mention Puerto Ricans, but we have to be very careful that we not take it too far. We cannot support someone for a position just because she is “one of us.”
A Hispanic woman judicial activist is just as bad as any other judicial activist. A conservative judicial activist is just as bad as a liberal judicial activist. The requirements for being a judge are still the same whatever your race, gender, or economic status. Judges should be men and women of integrity who respect the laws and the Constitution as written and who will resist the temptation to legislate from the bench.
Even President Obama has apparently come to see the light. In his speech naming Judge Sotomayor as his nominee, he said one of the requirements for a judge is the “recognition of the limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge’s job is to interpret, not make, law.”
The problem for the President and Sotomayor is that there are legitimate doubts about her in this area. Judge Sotomayor must defend her record and must explain statements she has made, such as her claim that the “court of appeals is where policy is made.” Even worse, immediately after expressing that distorted view of the judicial role, she added, “I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don’t make law.”
It would seem that making policy isn’t the problem for Sotomayor; it’s the fact that she’s admitting it out loud. That is the issue here, not where she comes from or how she got here.
Many suggest it would be “difficult” to oppose Sotomayor because she is a Hispanic woman. Hispanics should reject such an incoherent and offensive notion and intelligently articulate why they support or oppose her regardless of her race.